Class Trip to the galapagos Re-embarking on Darwin's Great Adventure

[To be used in Junior or Senior level Biology course during the subtopic of evolution and Charles Darwin. This literary field trip is an introductory jump into many fundamental aspects of evolution. It will place students, with minimal background knowledge given prior to the trip, in the shoes of famous naturalist and explorer Charles Darwin. Students will not only be tasked with examining species Darwin himself saw and described, but will address several issues ranging from global warming to conservation. Though this field trip spans several Nebraska State Standards, the two with which this literary field trip will focus on are 12.3.4.b Recognize that the concept of biological evolution is a theory which explains the consequence of the interactions of: (1) the potential for a species to increase its numbers, (2) the genetic variability of offspring due to mutation and recombination of genes, (3) a finite supply of the resources required for life, and (4) the ensuing selection by the environment of those offspring better able to survive and leave offspring and 12.3.4.d Apply the theory of biological evolution to explain diversity of life over time]

{I'm very excited to use such a myriad of text styles to help reach many different students. Further, I tried to incorporate significant differentiation within the field trip formative assessments. I think this combination will help connect students better to the content, especially as this is a relatively introductory crash-course into evolution and Darwin. It does seem like the trip will take a significant amount of time, so perhaps students should work in groups? Or maybe I need to skim some of it down. I would be nervous that students would get bored of the field trip due to its length and lose focus.}

As you embark on your journey through the Galapagos, please use notebook or blank paper to answer the questions and prompts in bold that appear throughout the trip. Feel free to read the questions prior to watching the video or reading text. Happy travels!

There were many animals shown throughout this video. (1) Describe or draw one animal in the video that you have never seen before. (Remember: many of the animals Charles Darwin saw on his journey had never been documented previously. His notes and drawings provided other scientists incredibly important information for future research and composition of biological family trees)

A conservationist in the video described several reasons why wildlife on the islands is currently threatened. (2) List three of those reasons and one possible solution for each problem.

(3) Should the Galapagos Islands be a tourist destination or be limited to scientific research only? Defend your answer with evidence gathered from the video or previous knowledge.

Galapagos Finches

(4) What is one difference you can spot between these three Galapagos finches?

(5) What hypothesis can you develop as to why the above difference exists?

(6) Describe one instance where you have seen different physical features in similar species. For what reason do you think this difference exists?

Charles Darwin - via Biography.com

Early Life

Naturalist Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in the tiny merchant town of Shrewsbury, England. He was the second youngest of six children. Darwin came from a long line of scientists. His father, Dr. R.W. Darwin, was as a medical doctor, and his grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was a renowned botanist. Darwin’s mother, Susanna, died when he was only 8 years old. Darwin was a child of wealth and privilege who loved to explore nature.

In October 1825, at age 16, Darwin enrolled at Edinburgh University along with his brother Erasmus. Two years later, Charles Darwin became a student at Christ's College in Cambridge. His father hoped he would follow in his footsteps and become a medical doctor, but the sight of blood made Darwin queasy. His father suggested he study to become a parson instead, but Darwin was far more inclined to study natural history.

(7) Where is Edinburgh University? If you were Charles Darwin, coming to these tropical islands for the first time from across the globe, what would your first thought be? (8) Write a Tweet (160 characters or fewer) of what Charles Darwin may have thought/felt as he first set foot on the Galapagos Islands.

Voyage on the HMS Beagle

While Darwin was at Christ's College, botany professor John Stevens Henslow became his mentor. After Darwin graduated Christ's College with a bachelor of arts degree in 1831, Henslow recommended him for a naturalist’s position aboard the HMS Beagle. The ship, commanded by Captain Robert FitzRoy, was to take a five-year survey trip around the world. The voyage would prove the opportunity of a lifetime for the budding young naturalist.

On December 27, 1831, the HMS Beagle launched its voyage around the world with Darwin in tow. Over the course of the trip, Darwin collected a variety of natural specimens, including birds, plants and fossils. Through hands-on research and experimentation, he had the unique opportunity to closely observe principles of botany, geology and zoology. The Pacific Islands and Galapagos Archipelago were of particular interest to Darwin, as was South America.

Upon his return to England in 1836, Darwin began to write up his findings in the Journal of Researches, published as part of Captain FitzRoy's larger narrative and later edited into the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle. The trip had a monumental affect on Darwin’s view of natural history. He began to develop a revolutionary theory about the origin of living beings that was contrary to the popular view of other naturalists at the time.

(9) What country is due East of the Galapagos Islands? (10) Speculate on the possible effects of the island's location on the wildlife it contains.

Theory of Evolution

Darwin's exposure to specimens all over the globe raised important questions. Other naturalists believed that all species either came into being at the start of the world, or were created over the course of natural history. In either case, the species were believed to remain much the same throughout time. Darwin, however, noticed similarities among species all over the globe, along with variations based on specific locations, leading him to believe that they had gradually evolved from common ancestors. He came to believe that species survived through a process called "natural selection," where species that successfully adapted to meet the changing requirements of their natural habitat thrived, while those that failed to evolve and reproduce died off.

In 1858, after years of further scientific investigation, Darwin publically introduced his revolutionary theory of evolution in a letter read at a meeting of the Linnean Society. On November 24, 1859, he published a detailed explanation of his theory in his best-known work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

(11) What do you already know about the Theory of Evolution? (12) What do you want to know or what questions do you have about the Theory of Evolution?

(13) Pick up a copy of On the Origin of Species and thumb through it's pages. Select and record a page number that catches your interest/attention and either summarize its contents, draw a picture representing the page, or write three questions you have regarding the contents on the page.

Two groups are feuding in the islands in the above video. (14) Pick a side and, in a few sentences, defend that side (use previous evidence from this or other classes to defend your stance).

Conservation groups spend a lot of money to keep many species alive across the world. (15) What is one reason why conservationists would spend so much to keep certain species from going extinct?

(16) How does the story of Lonesome George make you feel? Summarize your thoughts in three or four sentences, a poem, or a picture.

Listen to the RadioLab podcast found in the below link and answer the questions that follow:

(17) What features of the Galapagos turtles do you think changed from island to island? Why?

(18) Do you think conservationists made the right choice in removing the goat population from the island in order to save other species?

(19) What would you have done differently to try and save the Galapagos tortoises?

(20) Complete one of the following reflections:

Imagine that Darwin had an iPhone with him on his journey to the galapagos. Draw a picture of a selfie Darwin would take at some point during his journey on the islands. The picture should also include several important features of the islands or moments of Darwin's adventure. You should have a caption of several words included with your drawing.

Create a thought web, using The Galapagos as the central point, and utilize information from the field trip to build connections across the web with information you learned.

Write a poem or song about Darwin and/or the Galapagos Islands. The poem should include several important aspects of the islands, Darwin, or anything else found on the field trip.

Along with choosing one of the above prompts, (21) what are your thoughts on the field trip itself? Was this more enjoyable than reading out of a textbook? What did you think was most interesting on the field trip? Least interesting? Where would you have "gone" if you controlled the trip itinerary (with relation to Darwin, Evolution, and The Galapagos)?

Still have some time to explore? Follow the links below for some more cool and interesting Galapagos stops!

Google sent some of their virtual reality cameramen across the island trails. When you watch the video below, notice the animals, vegetation, and other life near the trails.

Follow the path of Charles Darwin on the interactive tour of the islands below.

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