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Charles Darwin: The Tale of Evolution



Over 130 years have passed since the death of Charles Darwin.  Despite the passage of time since Darwin first presented his ideas on natural selection, there continues to be controversy surrounding his theory of evolution.  In 1973, Theodosius Dobzhansky published an essay in American Biology Teacher in which he stated, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  Truer words were never spoken.  When teaching a biology class, we shouldn’t limit our students to a single unit on the theory of evolution.  Rather, the theme of evolution should be woven throughout every unit we teach.

I designed this teaching resource to teach my biology students about the man, Charles Darwin.  Darwin was a religious and thoughtful man, as well as a superb scientist.  However, I have found that I still have students in my class who view him in a less than complimentary light.  My main goal in writing this journaling activity was to provide my students with the facts and information they need to form their own opinions and conclusions based on the evidence presented.  After all, that is the goal of science, right?


I had two goals in mind when writing “Darwin’s Diary.”  First, I wanted to include enough biographical information about Darwin to teach my science students about his life.  Second, I wanted to produce a class project that would require my students to be thoughtful and introspective, while at the same time, ensure that they master the concepts of evolution.


What will the students be doing?

This teaching resource is written as if it were a diary kept by Charles Darwin throughout his life.  The entries in the diary are designed to teach about the life of Darwin, and the events that led him to develop his theory of evolution.  The 26 diary entries include facts and information about Darwin as well as actual quotes from Darwin.  Students are asked to respond in some way to each diary entry.  In some diary entries students will be asked to offer opinions, but in others, they must provide correct answers to questions.  In order to complete this project, students need to receive instruction in the concepts covered in an “Introduction to Evolution” chapter of a typical high school biology textbook.


I had such a great time doing the research for this evolution journaling activity! Darwin's life was full of the same drama, struggles, accomplishments, and tragedies that we all face today.  Darwin was witty, introspective, and very adventuresome!  I was able to find and use his own writings to use in the diary entries, and his descriptions of his daily life are simply amazing.  In one dairy entry Darwin describes collecting beetles.  Both of his hands were full holding beetles, so in order to catch a new beetle, he popped one into this mouth to free up a hand to catch another!  He describes his struggles trying to please his father, his tiny quarters aboard the Beagle, riding on the backs of Galapagos turtles, marriage, and his concern about the uproar that would be caused by publishing his theory.  As you can see, I am completely captivated by the details of his life, and your students will be as well!

What is needed to complete this assignment?

In order to complete these assignments, students will need to use the following resources:
  Biology textbook
  Notes taken during class
•  Online Resources

This diary activity is perfectly aligned with my teaching PowerPoint, “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.” It includes a 96-slide PowerPoint with notes for teacher and students. Click the image to the right to view this product on TeachersPayTeachers.







How can you use this in your classroom?
•    I suggest copying all pages and passing them out to your students on the first day of your evolution unit.  The activity is designed to be used over multiple days as you teach your unit on evolution.  
•    Use only the pages you want.  There are enough student pages included so that you have the flexibility to choose the pages best suited for your needs. 
•    Each day during your unit, have students complete a number of the dairy entries.  These pages make great classroom activities as well as quality homework assignments.  You will find that the content of the diary entries will generate much classroom discussion.
•    The questions used in this assignment are of two types.  Some questions require the students to express their opinion, but most questions require a research-based correct answer.  I accept any and all answers to opinion-based questions as long as the student has given an honest effort to express his/her opinion.  If this assignment is to be graded make sure that students know that they are expected to provide correct answers for the majority of the questions.
      



    At the end of "On the Origin of Species", Darwin writes, “There is grandeur in this view of life … from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” This teaching resource is a journey through time that allows our science students to learn about the events throughout Darwin's life that led him to write and publish "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection."

  

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