Year 6: Evolution and inheritance
This list consists of lesson plans and activities to support the teaching of evolution and inheritance in Year Six. It contains tips on using the resources, suggestions for further use and background subject knowledge. Possible misconceptions are highlighted so that teachers may plan lessons to facilitate correct conceptual understanding. Designed to support the new curriculum programme of study it aims to cover many of the requirements for knowledge and understanding and working scientifically. The statutory requirements are that children are taught to:
• recognise that living things have changed over time and that fossils provide information about living things that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago
• recognise that living things produce offspring of the same kind, but normally offspring vary and are not identical to their parents
• identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.
Visit the primary science webpage to access all lists.
Links and Resources
Different kinds of birds eat different kinds of foods, because they are specialised. Their beaks have adapted to be the best shape for picking up the food they like best and is most available to them.
This experiment asks children to predict which ‘beak’ will be best for each ‘food’ type and test it simulating beak type with chopsticks, spoons, tweezers etc. This is a great way of showing children how beak shape is important for a species as if it had a beak which was incompatable with it's food source then it would eventually die out. It is important to point out that adaptation is a very gradual process which happens within a population rather than to an individual bird. Children will find this concept difficult to understand but it will form the basis of future learning in Key Stage Three and beyond.
This further activity looks at the way in which variation in beak shape is related to the available food sources within an environment. Children simulate bird feeding by using a ‘beak’ to collect food and place it into a stomach. There are four different beak shapes and a range of different food types to choose from.
Children work scientifically to identify similarities and differences in the ways animals are adapted to survive throughout the winter, then looking at two case studies on species that are adapted to cold environments children choose an animal species and produce their own case study. Includes a powerpoint, teachers' notes and worksheets.
Often children assume the animal chooses to have a certain feature for example a polar bear chooses to have a white coat. Having a white coat in a winter habitat of ice and snow helps the animal survive in that habitat. An important point is that the animal has no control over how it may adapt to survive over winter. A common misconception is that organisms can adapt to new conditions in their lifetimes and pass these adaptations on to their offspring.’
This collection from Evolution Megalab introduces Darwin’s ideas on evolution by looking at variation, adaptation and distribution of banded snails. A video shows some teaching ideas from Professor Steve Jones as he introduces a Year Six class to genetic diversity. Children look at the observable similarities and differences between a sample of snails and then at the observable and hidden differences within the class. They investigate how they may classify and group themselves according to characteristics such as: eye colour, skin colour, tongue rolling, taste preference and finger print pattern and then produce a code to represent themselves as individuals.
This treasure chest of resources provides videos and hands-on activities around the tricky concepts of Variation, Adaptation, Natural Selection and Evolution. The news report on the Evolution of Life on Earth helps show the very long passage of time in which evolutionan occurs. Dinosaurs are used as a way of highlighing adaptations. Also included are: a simulation of how antibiotic resistant bacteria occurs through evolution and a video explaining how evolution works.
This resource supports learning about adaptation, looking at penguins in the Southern Ocean. Children describe the similarities and differences in the features of penguins and land birds and describe how penguins are adapted to their habitat.
The Darwin Presentation looks at the Charles Darwin's work on evolution including his work looking at variation in the Galapagos finches and how they have gradually adapted to suit the Island on which they live. Using Darwin's Finches because of the clearly different beaks is a good way of showing how the beak has become adapted to the different islands on which they live. Children could observe the finches on the clips noting the differences then go on to create a classification key.
This activity is a useful way of demonstrating that evolutionary change is based on the genetic make up of populations over time.
This creative activity from ARKive is designed to teach Key Stage Two students about the concept of adaptation. Using the marine environment as an example, students learn about how different species are adapted physically or behaviourally to survive in a particular type of habitat. Students then design their own species adapted to a particular habitat.
These resources take a look at the evolution of the horse and of the whale; they contain animations, comics and timeline activities. The animations show the evolution of the animals over millions of years, looking at how various features evolved. The complementary colourful comics provide further detail in a humorous way and provide many points for classroom discussion
Use these 32 large, black and white line drawings and photograph to illustrate evidence for human evolution.
Looking at the six drawings of hominid skulls, ask children in groups to identify which they think is the skull of a modern-day human and which is the ape. Then ask them to decide on an order from ape to modern day explaining their reasoning. This could also be done by putting larger pictures around the class and children deciding in groups on the order and labelling them 1-6.
Creating a timeline and ordering the skulls will help children to see that evolution is a gradual process, which happens over a very long period of time and does not occur in the lifetime of one individual.
The pack also contains drawings of of early man, modern man and an ape, dinosaur skeletons and fossilised plants and animals. Children could compare fossils with living animals including species which have changed very little over millions of years such as the tuatara, the coelacanth and the monkey puzzle tree. In doing this they can see that evolution is not always progressive and that evolutionary change is not always necessary for species to persist. Other examples of species which have changed very little are: mosses, fungi, sharks and crayfish.
This booklet provides background scientific knowledge and understanding of genetics and ecology for teachers, including self assessment activities.
Pages 34-38 on the pdf looks at the determination of characteristics by genes. It gives background information to help teachers understand why the offspring of living things normally vary and are not identical to their parents. It Includes two activities which could be used with children in class to demonstrate this. Use a famous family such as the royal family or a well known celebrity family as this topic could be a sensitive issue for some children and their family where children are not living with both biological parents. Listing the characteristics that are common between a child and their mother and father is a good way of showing children that although some features are inherited from parents offspring are not identical to their parents.
This worksheet looks at how finches in the Galapagos Islands show adaptations which suit the different environments in which they live. It provides an information sheet about the finches and questions to answer based on the sheet. It also contains pictures of six birds from around the world to research in order to identify their habitats, food sources and how their beaks are suited to their particular diet.
This activity introduces ideas about evolution in the context of habitats and the environment. Children think of several possible features they would like humans to evolve and discuss how they would help us to survive more easily in modern habitats. They then design an adaptation that would help humans to survive in changing habitats and present their ideas to the class.