At The Milner Centre for Evolution we have produced some free resources for primary school teachers to help them teach the concept and principles of evolution effectively.
Aimed at 10-year-old’s, our lesson plans were created as part of our unique research in schools, which used large replicated randomised control trials based on medical experimental designs to find out what really works when teaching evolution.
For primary school children we discovered that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the teaching of evolution and genetics is best done using story books rather than by doing an experiment, and not by reference to humans.
The freely available and cheap (7p per student) schemes of work we have produced result in a significant degree of increase in understanding the concepts and, unusually, show strong effects in lower ability students.
For the primary school teachers introduced to the programme, 91% still use all (50%) or some of the resources (41%) to teach evolution and inheritance and 55% now dedicate more time to teaching these topics. Among teachers using our resources 82% felt very (68%) or extremely confident (14%) teaching the subjects.
All of the resources follow the “genetics -first“ approach shown, using a randomised control trial, to be highly effective in teaching evolution. The resources, which can be downloaded below, include a lesson plans on variation, adaptation, evolutionary timescales, and homology/common ancestry, to be taught in that order. All necessary resources, including homework tasks for students, if desired, are included.
One download (for Scheme of Work 2) includes the resources for the four lesson plan in which, in lesson 2, the pupils pretend to be birds finding camouflaged moths and, in lesson 4, with the human limb bones used to convey the concept of homology.
The other download (for Scheme of work 3) includes the resources for the four lesson plan in which in lesson 2 the pupils are told a story about camouflaged moths and, in lesson 4, with trilobites used to convey the concept of homology.
From these a teacher can produce any of the four possible four-lesson plans. Scheme of Work 3 was the most successful, followed by Scheme of Work 2.
Our work on teaching evolution has received the backing of the National STEM Centre and even Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize winner and former President of the Royal Society, who said:
There are few things more important than teaching the next generation about science. The GEVO Teaching Project represents an exciting and important initiative to ensure the best teaching possible of genetics and evolution in UK schools. It should be welcomed by all scientists and science teachers alike.