Let’s talk about evolution

Posted: 3rd Oct 2016

Evolution and Inheritance has been on the primary school curriculum for over 12 months now, and the biggest concern seems to be how dry the curriculum content can be. But this doesn’t have to be the case – sometimes a new approach can make a real difference. How about teaching evolution through stories?

It is relatively easy to find news stories linked to evolution. The most common are new fossil discoveries. A recent favourite, about a fossil within a fossil within a fossil, is the perfect way to demonstrate how fossils help scientists to understand more about ancient food chains. Asking students to discuss what it might show would be a fantastic starting point for a discussion.

Another great option for a new story starter is to focus on the growing urban fox community. The British public love to hate urban foxes, and they are never far from the headlines. The curriculum states that children must understand that animals’ adaptations help them to survive in their environment. Any story about urban foxes introduces the idea that some animals’ adaptations are suited more than one habitat. You could try reading this article as a class and then splitting into two groups. What conclusions can the class draw from a debate? Would they rather be urban or rural foxes? Do they have any ideas about why foxes have started changing their habitat to live in cities?

A lighter option for the historical aspects of evolution might be to use a comic book. There are lots of fantastic specialist comics out there, covering a range of topics including Shakespeare, science and history. This extract from Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection shows the moment Charles Darwin realised each of his finches collected on the Galapagos Islands had a differently shaped beak.

Darwin Interior Crop

Each finch had adapted to suit the food available on the island they lived on. Children may not have noticed that birds have different beaks, so a practical investigation is a great next step. Giving children chopsticks, tweezers, straws and spoons to replicate different beaks and seeing how they could be helpful in feeding or building nests will help build understanding.

Whether it’s through a recent news story, historical comic, or even creating your own Just So tales about how animals evolved, stories are a wonderful way to bring evolution to life. Evolution is relatively new, and might seem tricky, but there are just as many engaging opportunities for lively debate and interesting investigations as any other aspect of primary science. It’s just a case of finding the most exciting angle!

Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection by Alan Hesse is available here for just £10.00