As I mentioned last year, most schools don’t deal with evolution until high school – long after kids start to wonder (and form their own theories) about how life works. And even then, many do an inadequate job, to say the least. But there are some useful resources for exploring the concept of natural selection with your family on any level. Here are a few:
For Younger Kids
How Whales Walked into the Sea by Faith McNulty
By focusing on one species – and one with a unique background — this book demonstrates to young kids how the process of evolution works.
Upper Elementary-Middle School
The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis
Peter Sis is an amazing artist who manages to jam-pack his drawings with interesting tidbits about famous scientists and their work. This is a picture book that will appeal to older kids as much as younger ones.
Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Kristan Lawson
Like all Chicago Review Press books this one has a wealth of information, plus activities that bring another dimension to the material. Activities include nature observation and an experiment in acquired characteristics.
Middle and High School
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
Shubin, a fish paleontologist who discovered a “missing link” fossil belonging to a creature making the transition from ocean to land, shows how the basis of our eyes, ears, legs and other body parts are present in much earlier creatures. Although written for adults, older kids will also find this a quick, lively read, with helpful illustrations. Also available as an audiobook (so you can play it in the car to your captive audience).
The PBS series Evolution
One of the advantages of watching educational videos with your kids is being able to stop and discuss questions or listen to comments as they come up. We just borrowed this series from the library and started watching it last week. So far, it’s done a good job of explaining Darwin’s theories on a level that my middle school/high school kids can understand, and of putting them into context. There’s also a companion website http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/ with online activities and extra information.
Kathy Ceceri also blogs at Home Biology.