Evolution of children’s Education

Human – business evolutionFrom September, evolution was finally added to the Year 6 Curriculum.  Have you taught it yet? Let me know how you got on in the comments if you have – and if you’ve been saving it for the summer term (it’s more important to prepare for SATs, right?) then come along, get on with it! (Don’t forget you can ask for help with it here!)

But why are we saving delaying one of the most elegant scientific theories until children are aged 11?  Why are we letting them try to work out for themselves how animals are all different and survive in the world?  They are presented with the idea that a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are both dogs at such a young age, why do we leave them for years before we explain how that can be the case? (Let’s not even begin to question why fossils are introduced without explanation in year 3!)

A recent study suggests that we could (and should) be introducing the idea of evolution to children much earlier than we are. And, importantly, it shows that they are more than capable of understanding the concept and using it to explain the world around them.  It looks like the current system leaves plenty of people with misunderstandings (see here for a review of the subject), so maybe it is time to change the way we educate youngsters in the ‘theory’ of evolution.

What to start explaining it to the young people around you? Here it is, in the smallest, simplest nutshell:

  • (observation) Not all animals of a given species survive (look how many frog spawn are in the school pond compared to frogs for example!).
  • (inference) Animals must therefore be in competition to survive – the faster, stronger, better hunter/hider survives. (It is better adapted – there are many more examples of ways to survive)
  • (observation) Children look like their parents – not exactly, but similar. (They inherit characteristics)
  • (inference) The surviving, faster, stronger, better hunter/hider individuals pass on these characteristics to their offspring.

Over time, this will lead to a species changing, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and given enough time results in the glorious array of animals we see around us.  The two observations above can be confirmed by children in Year 1, so why not start them off in the right direction?

About the author: Matt Stanford

Matt Stanford
Matt has been working in education for 10 years, teaching science to all ages from preschool to degree. Before he became a teacher he studied chemistry at Masters level and completed his PhD at The University of Warwick. It was during his time at university that he got involved in outreach work in local primary schools and found his passion for inspiring learning.

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