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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution

LESSON 7: Teacher Page

Why Is Evolution Controversial?

Although evolutionary theory is accepted by the scientific community as a valid explanation of the history and structure of the living world, its inclusion in public school curricula continues to be controversial for many. In this lesson, students study the benchmark historical decisions regarding the teaching of evolution. They see how science can influence policy and vice versa.

Activity 1: Controversy through Time

 This activity will take two class periods.
Image of a judges gavel.

To better understand the controversy that hinders the teaching of evolution in many classrooms, students will study the main historical conflicts.

Learning Goals


Learn about the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution


Learn how science and religion are different ways of understanding the world


Examine the legal issues surrounding science, education, and evolution

Activity 2: Scopes Trial

 This activity will take between one and three class periods.
Image of the scales of justice.

Examine the famous court case in which John Scopes was fined for teaching evolution in his high school biology class.

Learning Goals


Learn about the legal battle over teaching evolution in our nation's public schools


Learn how American society views the controversy between the teaching of evolution and religion

Additional Activities
Find further readings on reconciling evolution with religious belief that focus on the Scopes Trial.

View LESSON 7 Student Page

 Scientific Terms


Natural Selection

Assessment Rubric
Guidelines for assessing students' mastery of activity.

National Science Standards for LESSON 7

Icon with a clock, representing 45 minutes of class time.Time to Learn!

Each clock icon respresents approximately one
45-minute classroom session (not including homework).

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