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.
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
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.
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
- How to Teach Preschool and Elementary Age Kids about Prehistoric Times
Teach your kids about early humans, prehistoric times, fossils and evolution with books, games and videos.
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
- 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
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.