Evolving Theory of Evolution

Evolving Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace developed the idea of evolution through natural selection. But this idea was not accepted by scientists until more evidence came along. Use this infographic to explore how Darwinism and genetics came together to explain what we know today about evolution.


5 - 8


Biology, Genetics

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Introduce and share the infographic with students. Define key ideas such as natural selection, inheritance, and DNA. These activities can be done as in-class assignments, small group work, or they can be completed outside of class time. Introduce students to Charles Darwin’s research, Gregor Mendel’s work with pea plants, and James Watson and Francis Crick’s determination of the structure of DNA.

Darwin Challenged

Have students work in pairs to research the scientists and ideas that were used to challenge Darwin’s theory about the role of natural selection. Ask the pairs to choose one scientist or idea and make a poster that explains why that scientist thinks Darwin is wrong. Then have students write a response from Charles Darwin explaining why his theory of natural selection is correct.


Have students search to find a tree of life diagram of human evolution. Ask students to identify where “Lucy” fits into the tree. Then ask students to research Lucy and write a short paragraph describing why she is an important find.

Darwin’s Finches

Have students work in groups to research the finches Darwin studied in the Galapagos. Have the groups select one type of finch and explain how its beak adapted through natural selection to gather its food. Encourage the groups to build models to demonstrate how the shape of the beak is best suited for obtaining certain types of food. Have the groups present their demonstration to the class.

Tweeting Science

Ask students to read through the timeline and select one of the entries. Then have them research that entry to learn more about how the discovery came about and what it adds to our understanding of evolution. After research, have students summarize how the entry supports the legacy of an idea by writing a 280-character tweet that announces the evidence.

Natural Selection

Tell students that Darwin, along with another scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace, were the first to propose the idea of evolution through natural selection. Today, this idea is widely accepted by scientists. Have students research and devise a demonstration of how natural selection works in plants or animals. Have students select a demonstration that they can present to the class.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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