Photo credit: Slide by Tom Sherrington
By Tom Sherrington
“Charles Darwin had a big idea; arguably, the most powerful idea ever.” — Richard Dawkins
That’s the quote I used to start my assemblies this week. To me, it’s the most important and extraordinary story children should know and understand. The story of evolution, of how we came into existence as Homo sapiens roaming the Earth on a small ball of rock orbiting a star. The purpose of the assembly is to give prominence to the idea of evolution by (non-random natural selection) and to present the range of areas of science that support our understanding of it. I linked it to something current by referencing the amazing gathering of planets visible in the early morning sky. Every day this week I’ve seen Venus and Jupiter from the top of my road. Mars and Saturn are in between, albeit quite faint. I told my students that, looking at Venus, gives an idea of how Earth looks from Venus- just a small object in space, reflecting light from the Sun.
I think we might do too many preachy moral message orientated assemblies; sometimes it’s good just to tell students something really very interesting and complicated, without patronising them.
A key thing to challenge is the common misconception that humans ‘evolved from chimpanzees’ – or monkeys or dinosaurs…(I like to give those in the know a little chuckle with the subtle South Park reference – it seems to go safely over the heads of most students. The ‘fish-squirrel’ thing is hilarious). The idea to get across is that of common ancestors. In the assemblies I was promoting reading Richard Dawkins’ brilliant book The Ancestor’s Tale. It’s one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read, telling the story of the ancestors of every living thing and how they meet up at various rendezvous points as you go back in time.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.