The following books, movies, videos, and internet sites may be useful as you explore further the background and ideas of evolutionary biology.
Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An around-the-world Adventure. Sandra Markle. 2009. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, CA. ISBN 978-0-8118-5049-0. An excellent introductory book about Darwin’s voyages and how what he saw shaped his theories. Brief vignettes on each two-page spread that describe one important observation or event in his life, and how it made him think. Upper elementary and middle school. Includes glossary, index, map, and further reading list.
The Beak of the Finch. Jonathan Weiner. 1995. Vintage Press. ISBN 067973337X. An excellent description of contemporary research on the evolution of birds on the Galapagos Islands. The story builds from Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos, where he made collections of birds, to the contemporary research of Peter and Rosemary Grant on the role of natural selection and other forces in the evolution of birds known as Darwin’s finches. Appropriate for high school students and adults.
Bear’s Busy Year: A Book About Seasons. Marcia Leonard. 1990. Troll Associates, Hong Kong. ISBN 0-8167-1720-6. Preschool picture book in which a little boy bear responds to the four seasons by changing his clothes as appropriate—snowsuit for sledding in winter, swimsuit and sunscreen for running through the sprinkler in summer, etc. Good springboard for discussion about how children “adapt” to changing seasonal conditions.
Biomes of North America series. Rebecca L. Johnson. 2001. Carolrhoda Books, Inc., Minneapolis, MN. Series of eleven titles including both terrestrial and aquatic biomes. Excellent source of pictures and information about adaptations of organisms to their habitats. Elementary through middle school. Titles include the following:A Journey into a Lake
A Journey into a River
A Journey into a Wetland
A Journey into an Estuary
A Journey into the Ocean
A Walk in the Boreal Forest
A Walk in the Deciduous Forest
A Walk in the Desert
A Walk in the Prairie
A Walk in the Rain Forest
A Walk in the Tundra
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith. Deborah Heiligman. 2009. Henry Holt and Co., LLC, New York. ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8721-5 Focuses on the marriage and relationship between Charles and Emma Darwin and how that relationship influenced Charles’ work and thinking. Includes photographs and family trees, index, and additional sources.
Charles Darwin: A Biography. Janet Browne. 1996, 2003. Princeton University Press. Two volumes; appropriate for high school students and adults. ISBN 0691026068 (Vol. 1) and 0691114390 (Vol. 2).
Charles Darwin: A Photographic Story of a Life. David C. King. 2007. DK Publishing, New York, New York. Upper elementary through middle school. Thorough summary of Darwin’s life and work, and also touches on the society in which he worked as well as the social controversy that has followed his ideas. Many topics are visited but none in very great depth. Includes a timeline, brief bibliography, index, and many good photographs.
Charles Darwin: The Life of a Revolutionary Thinker. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. 2001. Holiday House, New York. ISBN 0-8234-1494-9 Good biography suitable for upper middle school and above. Illustrations, maps, references, glossary, and index.
Charles Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. Adrian Desmond and James Moore. 1994. W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0393311501. Probably for juniors and seniors. Charles Darwin. Alan Gibbons. 2008. Kingfisher, New York, New York. ISBN 978-0-7534-5251-5 Probably best suited to older elementary ages, a fictionalized diary of a ship’s boy aboard the HMS Beagle. Illustrations include drawings that go with the story as well as some photos of a few of Darwin’s actual collections and instruments. With glossary and index.
Charles Darwin and the Mystery of Mysteries. Niles Eldredge and Susan Pearson. 2010. Roaring Brook Press, New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-59643-374-8 Thorough in-depth biography. Appropriate for middle school and up. Includes timelines, photographs and illustrations, suggested further reading, and index.
Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities. Kristan Lawson. 2003. Chicago Review Press, Inc., Chicago. ISBN 1-55652-502-8 Excellent and thorough resource with much detailed information about both Darwin, his concepts of evolution and natural selection, and discussion of the controversy that has remained in the United States in particular. Activities are appropriate for a wide age range, from preschool up through high school. Includes glossary, index, bibliography, and resource list of relevant websites.
Darwin’s Ghosts: The secret history of evolution. Rebecca Stott. 2012. Spiegel and Grau. ISBN 978-1400069378. For hish schoolers, a good summary of much of the thinking that may have influenced Darwin’s development of his theory. Each chapter is a short biographical sketch of a different thinker who pondered natural history in his own way and time. Well-written and easy to read, a pretty good introduction to pre-Darwinian thinking with regard to species.
Darwin: With Glimpses into His Private Journal and Letters. Alice B. McGinty. 2009. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. ISBN 978-0-618-99531-8. Elementary ages. Includes annotated excerpts from Charles Darwin’s journals.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Jacqueline Kelly. 2009. Scholastic, Inc., New York, NY. ISBN 978-0-545-28438-7 Juvenile fiction. Tells the story of a young girl growing up in Texas at the end of the 19th century. Her grandfather is an amateur naturalist who corresponds with Charles Darwin, and who encourages Calpurnia to make observations and hypotheses of her own about the world around her. Good crossover book for science and literature studies. Probably 4th grade through middle school.
One Beetle Too Many. Kathryn Lasky. 2009. Candlewick Press, Somerville, Mass. ISBN 978-0-7636-1436-2 Appropriate for elementary ages. Recounts Darwin’s boyhood and trip aboard the Beagle. Illustrations are fun caricature-like collage that should appeal to younger kids. Includes bibliography.
Soundprints. The Smithsonian Institution's Soundprints series includes many books focusing on various animals and their lives. Some examples include following baby animals through their first few months of life; following animals as they prepare for winter; following young predators as they experience their first hunt; and so forth. The series includes books at multiple age levels, from early readers to more sophisticated books that are suitable for read-alouds or for older students to read on their own.
They Thought They Saw Him. Craig Kee Strete. 1996. Greenwillow Books, New York, NY. ISBN 0-688-14194-3. Picture book that follows the adventures of a newly-awakened (from hibernation) chameleon as he moves through different-colored backgrounds and changes color to match each one.
When it Starts to Snow. Phillis Gershator. 1998. Henry Holt and Company, New York. ISBN 0-8050-5404-9 Preschool picture book that introduces adaptations to seasonal change (winter) by a variety of woodland and barnyard animals.
Where did dinosaurs come from? Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. 2011. HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York. ISBN 978-0-06-445216-8 Thoroughly covers the evolution and history of the dinosaur lineage. Great introduction to taxonomy and phylogenetics, with emphasis on the process of discovery that leads to understanding. For emergent readers and up.
http://www.pbs.org/teachers/connect/resources/701/preview/ http://www.darwinendlessforms.org/ (The exhibition to which this site refers is closed, but the site contains many useful links to further exploration of Charles Darwin’s life and work.)
Movies and Videos
The Life of Birds (all ages)
Planet Earth (all ages)
The Blue Planet (all ages)
The Secret Life of Plants (all ages)
Peep and the Big Wide World (PreK-2nd grade)
Printable pdfs of the lessons
- Classification 1: Living vs. Nonliving
- Classification 2: Sorting Animals
- Adaptation to Change: Seasonal changes
- Variation in Populations: Looking at a Population of Dandelions
- Adaptation: Camouflage—Advantages to Blending-In
- Fossils and Extinction
- Charles Darwin’s Adventures
- Fossils: Making Your Own “Fossils”
- Stratigraphy: Making Stratigraphic Layers and What We Can Learn From Them
- Adaptation: Seed Dispersal Strategies
- Variation: Exploring How Similar Organisms Vary in Different Habitats
- Specialization: Beaks for Seeds
- Age of the Earth
- Adaptation: How Populations Adapt (Or Fail to Adapt) to Environmental Changes
- Descent with Modification
- Selective Pressure and Natural Selection: Beanybugs in Slitland
- Speciation: The Pollenpeepers at the PBS Website
- Fossil Evidence for Evolution, Part 1
- Fossil Evidence for Evolution, Part 2
- How Charles Darwin Thought and What It Showed Him
- Modern Species Descend from Older Species: Modes of Speciation
- Variation in Domestic and Wild Populations
- Adaptation: Growing Sun-Loving vs. Shade-Loving Plants
- Natural Selection: Exercise with Coins Demonstrating Sexual Selection
- Heredity: MarbleMonsters Demonstrate How Traits Are Passed-On Through Generations
- Tempo: Short Versus Long Time scales
- Evidence and Inference
- Darwin’s Life and Times: The Set-Up for Evolutionary Theory