Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson students learn about the achievements of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, and in particular the importance of their contributions to the theory of evolution. Students imagine that they are court reporters for an imaginary court case between Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Students work in pairs to produce a series of five short podcasts describing the events of the court case in which Wallace accuses Darwin of stealing his evolution by natural selection theory.

Learning goals:

  • Students understand the roles that Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace played in developing our theory of evolution.
  • Students demonstrate understanding of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

21st century skills:

evolution darwin wallace skills

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content description:

Year 10 Science

  • The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of living things and is supported by a range of scientific evidence (ACSSU185)
  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE191)

Syllabus OutcomesSC5-12ES, SC5-14LW

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, Literacy.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.

Relevant parts of Year 10 Science achievement standards: Students explain the processes that underpin heredity and evolution. Students analyse how the models and theories they use have developed over time and discuss the factors that prompted their review.

Topic: Evolution.

Time required: 60+ mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – facilitate discussion and oversee activity.

Resources required: Internet access, voice recording device (e.g. phone or tablet). Student Worksheet – one copy per student OR computers/tablets to access the online worksheet. Darwin and Wallace factsheet. Podcast assessment rubric. Tips for making a great podcast.

Digital technology opportunities: Podcast creation (e.g. Audacity), digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for extension.

Keywords: Evolution, natural selection, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this activity students will understand the roles that Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace played in developing our theory of evolution. As part of this activity students will be asked to demonstrate understanding of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Teacher content information: In 1858, while feverish and bed-bound on an island in the Malay Archipelago, Wallace had a flash of inspiration: he understood how species evolved! In his feverish state he realised that species changed because the fittest individuals survived and reproduced, passing their advantageous characteristics onto their offspring. Wallace wanted to tell someone about his theory and immediately wrote to someone he knew would be interested; Charles Darwin.

When a shocked Darwin received Wallace’s letter (he had been working on this very same theory for twenty years!) he decided to publish his ideas. Both Darwin and Wallace presented at

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: What is ‘modification by descent’?

Part A: Introduction to Darwin and Wallace

Read the Darwin and Wallace factsheet and answer the questions below:

1. In your own words, describe Darwin's contribution to the theory of evolution:

2. How did Wallace contribute to the theory of evolution?

3. What did you find most interesting or surprising about the work or Darwin and/or Wallace and why?

4. What questions do you still have about Darwin and/or Wallace and the work that they did?

Part B: Courtroom podcast

Imagine the following scenario:

Alfred Russel Wallace makes it back from his fieldwork in the Malay Archipelago and finds that Charles Darwin has reached the same conclusions about evolution and natural selection as he had. Instead of acknowledging Wallace (which is what happened), imagine that Darwin stole Wallace’s ideas and that Wallace decides to sue Darwin for stealing his ideas. Darwin defends his theories saying that he and Wallace came to the same conclusi

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