What material can others recommend to teach evolution at home

Nov 14, 2013

Discussion by: MrHook

Hi – my son (we live in Ireland) will most likely have to attend a Catholic/C.Ireland primary school as there are no others in our area. I have no faith (sorry) that these schools will do a decent job in teaching the essentials of evolution and I was wondering what material others can recommend to allow me to teach at home. Son will be 5 shortly, and I'm thinking books, activities ideally – if they are fun even better 🙂

Many thanks for any suggestions.

14 comments on “What material can others recommend to teach evolution at home

  • 1
    Scepticon says:

    Interesting, I would have thought given Catholics accept evolution the teaching would be ok – perhaps with some “spin” though.

    Anyway there is the online teaching site Spongelab.com that has games, simulations, videos, lesson plans for all sorts of stuff. Evolution is included – there are simulations that show natural selection using rabbits and cars and lots of videos. Might be a bit advanced for a 5 year old but you could check it out.

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  • 2
    Alan4discussion says:

    The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True – http://www.www.richarddawkins.net/books/5859#

    The beautifully illustrated hardback version of “The Magic of Reality”: (How We Know What’s Really True), is good for reading by parents to young children, or for teens to read for themselves.

    Children’s books on fossils, rocks, flowers, food-crops, insects, fish, wild habitats, Dinosaurs etc are good reading for children.
    It is also worth looking at practical stuff like growing cress, lettuce, tomatoes etc from seeds, of studying insects etc. Children find sea-side rock pools fascinating. – More so if they have related books with good pictures.

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  • Sorry I did not track the URLS, but I encountered fun material on YouTube. Much of this stuff is so much easier to understand that raw text.

    One of the best involved some cartoon rabbits

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  • 4
    Ignorant Amos says:

    Kids in Ireland are not taught Evolution at primary school level and only at secondary school level if biology is a science choice subject at 3rd year (13 years old) and even then only in passing. A poll has shown that 62% are in favour for this to change with the subject being introduced at primary school level.

    It is a subject you are better off engaging in with your child anyway. Even non religious schools will display a bias. Both my kids attended integrated schools where the curriculum is the same as sectarian schools…at least in the North.

    There are plenty of websites that can assist in some “home schooling” and books can be reviewed online too.

    Evolution books for kids

    I hope you and your we’en have a blast with the project ahead of you.

    BTW, there is an interactive app of “The Magic of Reality” for the Apple Ipad, a touchy subject with my other half who has been having a barney with RDFRS and Amazon as to why there isn’t one for Android.

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  • 5
    Mr Greene says:

    Activities: Fossil hunting… Ireland is formed of the seabed of the Tethys ocean so any disused limestone quarry will be full of fossil shells.

    I’m sure your son can be influenced towards and interest in dinosaurs and there’s any number of books of them aimed at all age ranges, all the way into university.

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  • 6
    Dubhlinneach says:

    Mr. Hook,

    The teaching of evolution is not a problem in catholic schools in Ireland. My children attended catholic schools there and there was never a problem in this regard. However, as IgnorantAmos pointed out, it is only taught at second level and then only if a child opts for biology as one of the science subjects available. Supplementary home studies are definitely necessary. You got a lot of good advice here.

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  • Thanks for all the advice! Really appreciated. Like Mr. Greene says, fossil hunting has been fun and I’m looking forward to following up with all the links and info. Thanks again.

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  • 9
    SaganTheCat says:

    activities ideally – if they are fun even better 🙂

    go out

    fossil hunting has been mentioned but just going out, looking at nature, and getting your son to discover things and ask you what it is and why it’s like it is.

    I learned my evolution through reading dinosar books when i was only just old enough to read, then watching Life on Earth when I was a bit older. These helped me a lot but the drive to understand came from the fascination with everything I saw when I was out (it helped I grew up in a rural area). I can still remember the tingle that went up my spine when I first saw a wasp fly into a spiders web and witnessed how quickly it was stunned and rolled up for dinner by a spider barely the same size. Watching tadpoles grow into frogs in the summer (seriously, people scoff at the idea of fish growing legs and crawling out of the river?). Taking pictures of housemartins right outside my bedroom window building a nest in the eves. Taking a net to a stream and pulling out caddis fly lavae and pond skaters….

    I’ve never met an evolution denier who had a chldhood spent watching nature, i’m sure there are some but in my experience they’re all townie types who got their knowledge fed to them without really learning anything.

    Outside there are other things to see too, rivers slowly eating away at the bank, rocks that have lines in them, trees that show the direction of the prevailing wind by the way they’ve grown… all little clues to remind you everything is slowly changing and if you spend long enough just watching you can sometimes get a feel for it.

    you’ll need to get him the following; sturdy boots, magnifying glass, binoculars and a jam jar (you can make net from a coathanger and old rag). all the facts can be found in books or internet but the desire to learn requires spending some time with nature

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  • Ask your kid to think about why horses, donkeys and zebras are almost look-a-likes but not quite. Ask him to form a few hypotheses why that is so and to think about which is the most probable. I guess he’ll stumble on some kind of evolution theory himself. At least if he’s not already spoiled in the bible class.

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  • 11
    paulmarkj says:

    There are some great resources for teaching inheritance to small children no the TES website. It is based on the Simsons family tree.

    Google: inheritance biology simpsons family

    I am a teacher and would say that at 5 your child should be ‘learning how to learn’ rather that learning specific things. So teaching how to reason and question will benefit later in life. If a child of 12 takes the view “but how do we know?” and “what is the evidence?” then that will open their minds to the truth. (The truth in those statements can be found in the people who DON’T want children asking those questions!)

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  • 12
    Paleophyte says:

    First, you should give your son a solid background in critical thinking. This will be more useful to him than a truckload of books on any subject regardless of where he goes to school.

    Second, get him a couple of big books on dinosaurs. You’ll likely have to help him a fair bit at this age but that can be an advantage. Boys in the 7-9 year age range are particularly receptive.

    The combination of an inquisitive mind coupled with an imagination filled with prehistoric wonders is rapidly bored and offended by anybody’s paultry scriptures.

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  • I would not worry too much. One of the main reasons I am an atheist nowadays is the fact that I went to Catholic school and had to put up with a lot of nonsese that created lots of cognitve dissonance within my little brain.

    Parents should discourage learning by dogma. Make your child develop a skeptic mind set.

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  • 14
    TaraHanrahan says:

    I remember my dad taught me lots of this stuff in the garden.

    I remember fully being able to explain evolution to adults age 10-11. 5 may be a bit young for him to comprehend all of it, but you can start pointing things out, and asking him questions from this age the conclusion will come to him naturally over time.

    You can easily explain things like: The flowers that have the prettiest petals attract more bees, and that means they can have more baby flowers which will be pretty just like them.


    The weeds that grow the longest roots are hardest to dig up, and so they grow back again and again and that means they can have more babies than the weeds with short roots; and those baby weeds will also grow long roots just like their parent weeds.

    You can point things out such as, ‘You have blue eyes just like your granddaddy. Don’t you think it’s interesting how eye colour can be passed down families? Do you know how that happens? When a mommy is making a baby in her tummy her body chooses the baby’s eye colour from the genetic instructions given to her by her mom, dad, and the baby’s daddy’s mom and dad.”

    Or, if you have pets you can also explain these things.

    Once he understands that traits are inherited, all you need to explain is that mutations happen every time a baby is formed. You could describe these as ‘special unique traits’.

    So, my recommendation is to get outdoors and observe nature, Darwin style 😉

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