WORKSHOP #2: DARWIN'S DELIGHTS
This hands-on workshop, led by zoologist Jules Howard, is a great opportunity for pupils to learn about evolution, what Darwin discovered, and how it has changed science forever. As well as investigating fossils and a host of articulated mammal skeletons, the session also includes a Q&A section allowing pupils to ask questions about evolution and natural selection as well as providing teachers an opportunity to take a ‘refresher’ on Darwin, evolution and why it's all such a big deal!
"What do you bring?"
Fossils (include): fossil shark teeth (hundreds), plesiosaur vertebrate, ancient crocodile vertebrae, t-rex teeth (replicas), liopleurodon teeth (replicas), stegosaurus plates, tricerotops horns, belemnites, ammonites, mammoth tusk fragments, trilobites, sea urchins, fossil fish, mosasaur teeth and coprolites (dinosaur, fish and lizard faeces) - and much, much more...
Articulated skeletons and bones (include): horse's skull, fruit bats, rats, rabbits, human (replica!) skeleton; replica teeth from elephant seals, sabre-tooths, killer whales and cave bears; replica stone tools from early humans.
Equipment and resources: projector, digital microscope, laptop, identification sheets.
What happens in a typical session?
This workshop is suitable for a KS2 audience, but it can be modified to suit older or younger audiences on request. Sessions can be 60 minutes, 90 minutes or 120 minutes in length- whatever suits your timetable best! If you have a lively, talkative class then the longer the better!
Here's a typical run-through of a 60 minute session:
0 – 15 minutes PART 1: FOSSILS (ACTIVITY) – How do we know what life was like in the past? What do fossils tell us about the evolution of life on Earth? In this section, pupils split into groups to look at and identify fossils of creatures we find in Britain (2000+ small fossils including mosasaur teeth, crocodile vertebrae, shark teeth, ammonites, clams, worm castes and fossil fish skeletons…).
15 – 20 minutes – PART 2: DARWIN’S INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (TALK): Jules delivers a quick account of Darwin’s incredible journey around the Earth, looking at and describing animals never before known to the western world. What did he make of fossils? What did he notice about the animals that he found on his journey?
20 – 30 minutes: PART 3: VARIATION AND INHERITANCE (ACTIVITY): What do all animals have in common? Darwin noticed that all animals, like humans, have variation in almost every feature and that these variations can be inherited. In this section, Jules asks pupils to look for fossil shark teeth among the fossils in his collection. In what ways are these teeth varied? How might teeth shape affect shark diet? Are these features inherited? Jules introduces natural selection: ‘Darwin’s big idea’ – the most important force behind the evolution we see in all life in the history of Earth.
30 – 40 minutes: PART 4: MAMMAL EVOLUTION (ACTIVITY): “What happened after the dinosaurs?” asks Jules. By using selected fossils, Jules describes the variety of mammalian forms that evolved after the demise of the dinosaurs. Pupils, in groups, look at mounted skeletons of various mammals including rats, bats, rabbits (and a human), identifying the numerous common bones we inherited from a single mammalian ancestor from the age of the dinosaurs.
40 – 60 minutes: PART 5: Q&A and discussion: Why does everyone go on about Darwin so much? How does Darwin’s discovery affect our everyday life? In this section Jules answers pupils questions about evolution, facilitating discussion of some of the key themes outlined in the session. How is evolution helping us understand nature today? (disease, parasites, health, life on other planets...).