How to Teach Evolution to Kids

Teaching the theory of Evolution to kids can be quite a challenge. Learning Evolution is useful because of its importance in the Life Sciences, in medical research and even in the social sciences. It has many practical applications. Yet there aren't as many Evolution learning resources available that are aimed at younger kids as there should be. The following is a list of educational and fun resources for young children.

Evolution Videos

Just So Darwin is an Evolution video series for kids from the BBC. A grandad tortoise explains various things to his grandchild, such as Why does the giraffe have a long neck?, Why is the platypus so unusual?, Which animal is the best hunter in the water?, How do animals protect themselves?, and Which plants can store water in the desert? Due to region restrictions, you may not be able to view them directly from the BBC website.

This video from the New York Hall of Science explains Evolution using a story about a boy who wants to know why Kiwis are so different from other birds.

Revealing the Origins of Life is a 10 minute video that should be appropriate for 3rd to 5th graders.

Evolution Activities, Games, Videos and Movies

Evolution Activities

This online activity from the BBC teaches basic concepts in Evolution and includes multiple choice questions.

Darwin's Evolution Game is a tutorial and quiz offered by the Science Channel.

Primate Bipedalism: Understanding Standing Up: In this activity, the bones of a human and a chimpanzee are mixed up. Children must figure out which bones to put together to build a human and chimp skeleton.

Evolution in Action: In this activity, you can change the environment to see how random mutations aid survival.

Game

In Monster Game, you create a monster and then release it into the environment to see if it can survive or not. Players can choose eyes, nose, mouth and ears for their monster. An explanation is given as to why a particular feature will or won't aid survival. The game is for 5 to 12 year olds.

What Darwin Never Knew

This is an excellent movie created by NOVA. The beginning of the movie focuses on how Darwin came to the conclusions he did about Evolution and Natural Selection. This portion should be appropriate for older grade schoolers. Most of What Darwin Never Knew deals with genetics and may be too advanced for most children. You can download a worksheet, which consist of multiple questions based on the movie. You can pick out and simplify appropriate questions based on your child's age. You can view What Darwin Never Knew online or buy it on DVD.

Just So Darwin

Charlie's Playhouse Timeline

Charlie's Playhouse is a website that sells Evolution related products for kids. These items are appropriate for preschoolers and elementary age children. One item they sell is called the Giant Evolution Timeline: Book & Play Mat. The 18 foot playmat includes activities that are for the 4 to 10 year old age group. Don't worry about the length. It is very durable and rolls up easily.

The playmat shows the different kinds of creatures that lived in different time periods. There are simple explanations that show how various creatures changed. As an example:

See how Coelacanth here looks kind of like Tiktaalik, who looks sort of like Acanthostega? There animals' families evolved into each other. Look how the front fin became a leg!

Books on Evolution, Fossils and Charles Darwin

The are many good books that cover Evolution, fossils, prehistoric times, and Charles Darwin's life aimed at preschool and elementary age children. I have provided a list of just some of these books.

Books About Evolution

  • Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters and Lauren Stringer
  • Evolution Revolution: From Darwin to DNA by DK Publishing
  • Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins
  • Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story by Jennifer Morgan and Dana Lynne Andersen

Fossils

  • The Fossil Factory: A Kid's Guide to Digging Up Dinosaurs, Exploring Evolution, and Finding Fossils by Niles Eldredge
  • Fossils Tell of Long Ago (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Aliki
  • Fossil (DK Eyewitness Books) by Paul D. Taylor

Charles Darwin Biographies for Children

  • Who Was Charles Darwin? by Deborah Hopkinson
  • Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Kristan Lawson

Evolution Resources for Kids
Evolution Resources for Kids

Resources for Teachers and Homeschoolers

Understanding Evolution is a free website with information on how to teach Evolution to students in different grade levels.

Evolution 101 explains various concepts in Evolution in simple language. This information could also be used in a classroom or homeschool environment with older elementary age children.

Teaching materials provides Evolution information and resources divided by grade level. Information is included on how to teach, how to avoid common pitfalls, how to deal with objections and how to clear up misconceptions.

The Resource library includes tutorials, including some interactive tutorials.

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Comments 12 comments

Titen-Sxull profile image

Titen-Sxull 5 years ago from back in the lab again

It's good to see there are some new interesting ways kids can learn about Evolution. I remember very little of my Evolution education in school, in fact I don't recall learning anything about the theory until around age 12. It really should be taught much earlier and more thoroughly than it is (especially here in the USA).


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California Author

I think it's assumed that Evolution is too difficult for younger children to understand. But if you look at Charlie's Playhouse and the Just So Darwin videos, it is clear that you can bring it down to a level that younger children can understand. I think basic concepts in Evolution could be introduced easily in 1st grade.


Deborah Hopkinson 5 years ago

Thanks for mentioning my book, WHO WAS CHARLES DARWIN?

Readers interested in sharing another side of Mr. Darwin -- that of a loving and attentive father and a lifelong naturalist, might also be interested in my picture book, THE HUMBLEBEE HUNTER, Inspired by the Life and Experiments of Charles Darwin and his Children.

Thank you.


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California Author

I highly recommend Who Was Charles Darwin? to parents of younger children. I own it myself. I'll check out The Humblebee Hunter. It sounds very interesting.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi :)

My children are older now, but it would have been good to know of these resources, when they were younger ~ especially when I was home educating.

'What Darwin Never Knew' is very good indeed.

I shall look out for 'WHO WAS CHARLES DARWIN?' and 'THE HUMBLEBEE HUNTER' as I am tired of reading negative things about Darwin :)

Very good hub!


gingersmaltese profile image

gingersmaltese 5 years ago from 27597

You could also try the method that's used in college, Give them false evidence like the Stanley miller experiment or Gill slit diagrams or Archopetrics. Ive noticed that false evidence is very convincing to people who do not investigate it, that would most likely be useful teaching evolution to your children as well.


Julie Fletcher profile image

Julie Fletcher 4 years ago

Excellent Hub! I commented on another Hub you wrote, mentioned that my children love science more than other subjects. Now I have resources to show how evolution works for the smaller kids. Have 5 so this is great. Thanks!


PrometheusKid profile image

PrometheusKid 4 years ago from Heaven

Each sector always wants to indoctrinated youth with there ideology. Education should just be learning how to read and write any thing else is indoctrination.


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California Author

PrometheusKid,

Teaching kids basic facts about science or anything isn't indoctrination. It's teaching facts that are needed to be successful in certain fields. Evolution may seem like indoctrination to some people. But it is absolutely necessary for people in certain fields like medical research. Even people who reject evolution benefit from the medical research and developments that come about as a result of actually understanding Evolutionary Theory and being able to apply it.


Wickramshingle profile image

Wickramshingle 4 years ago from East Coast

Why not as good parents teach our children to be open minded by telling them that there are different points of view to almost all topics of discussion. Each has merit and each should be considered before making a final decision especially as it pertains to a belief system.

Also let them know that a belief is just what it is, a belief, and how "true" something is is measured by the intensity of that belief based upon accepted knowledge along with a faith in the things that are yet to be known or may never be known.

Let their minds develop and be free to decide for themselves.


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California Author

Wickramshingle,

Evolution is established science the way gravity is established science. We wouldn't teach our kids to be open-minded about whether gravity is true or not. America is underproducing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduates. Asking kids to be "open-minded" about an important foundational concept in modern biology isn't going to improve that.


Parimalpolymath profile image

Parimalpolymath 11 months ago from India

Excellent hub! Very nice recommendations!

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