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Online Lessons for Teachers: Learning Evolution


Who Was Charles Darwin?

View LESSON 2 Student Page

Activity 1: Darwin's Great Voyage of Discovery

Activity 2: Evolution's Role in History

Activity 2: Teacher Notes

Materials You'll Need:


World Map (pdf)


Excerpts from Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle (pdf)

Activity 1 Teacher Notes: Darwin's Great Voyage of Discovery

Students learn about Darwin's voyage on the Beagle by reading excerpts from his letters and journals and mapping his route. Instead of simply telling students that Darwin was a keen observer, this activity gives them the opportunity to read his observations and judge for themselves. By mapping Darwin's voyage, students can see the wide range of natural phenomena and living things Darwin observed. They can understand how Darwin's accumulated observations led to his finding connections and eventually explanations.

Learning Goals


To provide a historical context for the observations that Darwin made during his voyage


To have students use original sources to trace Darwin's voyage


To have students explore how Darwin used his observations to formulate his theory of natural selection

Part A: Putting Darwin on the Map


Your students can print the excerpts (pdf) and map (pdf). Or you can distribute copies to the class.


You may wish to review longitude and latitude with your students before they begin the mapping activity.


You may wish to provide magazines with nature photography in case students would prefer cutting and pasting to drawing.


As an alternate version of this activity, have the students create a travel log or brochure of Darwin's voyage based on the letters and journal entries provided. Be sure to emphasize the important observations that are included in each document.

Part B: Observations Lead to a Theory


Ask students to list Darwin's observations and describe how each one might have helped him formulate his theory of natural selection.


Have students draw a concept map to show how these ideas relate. You may want to save these maps to discuss after students learn more about evolution, particularly natural selection.

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