Activity for The Making of a Theory
This activity explores the concepts and research presented in the short film The Origin of Species: The Making of a Theory, which documents the epic voyages of naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.
Until the early 1800s, most people, scientists included, believed that every species was specially created by God in a form that never changed. The epic voyages and revolutionary insights of two brave young British naturalists, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, overturned this long-held idea. Prodigious collectors of animals and plants, each man developed a keen appreciation for the variation within species, the relatedness of species, and the patterns of geographic distribution, all of which was hard to reconcile with special creation. This hard-earned knowledge led each to ask why and how creatures came to live in a given place.
The “Student Handout” probes students’ understanding of the key concepts addressed in the film. The “Educator Materials” document provides suggested pause points in the film with questions for students, background information, and detailed discussion points; a list of related resources and references; and an answer key for the “Student Handout.”
Student Learning Targets
- Explain how the evidence collected by Darwin and Wallace led them to propose the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin, fossil, Galápagos, Malay Archipelago, species distribution
Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray, 1859.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS2-1, HS-LS3-3, HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-5, HS-ESS1-6; SEP6
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.D, EVO-1.E, EVO-1.M, EVO-1.O, EVO-3.D; SP1
IB Biology (2016)
5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, C.1
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.6, 2.7
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, SP1, SP2
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1, CC5; DP1