Lesson Plan: Charles Darwin's Experiments

Charles Darwin

Biology professor James Costa provides basic background information on Charles Darwin.


In this lesson, students will explore several experiments Charles Darwin conducted as he tested his theory of evolution. Darwin used his home and surrounding outdoor environment to test his ideas and note observations in nature, and he drew upon the thoughts and experiences of others to gather documentation and further his investigations.


  • Step 1:

    Handout: Charles Darwin (Google Doc)

    As a class, view the following video to introduce the topic to students.

    Video Clip 1: Charles Darwin (1:26)

    Biology professor James Costa provides basic background information on Charles Darwin

  • Step 2:

    Ask students to view the following videos on Charles Darwin's experiments and observations. Students can take notes in the related sections on the accompanying handout. This can be done as an individual or jigsaw activity. If this is completed in small groups, have one student from each team present the information that was discovered in their video clip.

    Video Clip 2: Dispersal (8:27)

    James Costa discusses Darwin's idea of dispersal through describing some of his experiments.

    Vocabulary: Galapagos Islands, Germinate, Dispersal, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Viable

    Video Clip 3: Biodiversity and Botanical Studies (2:33)

    James Costa talked about Darwin's Lawn Plot and Weed Garden experiments.

    Vocabulary: Biodiversity, Botanical, Diversity, Quadrat, Botanist, Phylogenetic, Natural Selection, Niche Partitioning, Competitive Exclusion, Demographic

    Video Clip 4: Pollination (7:32)

    James Costa talked about Darwin's observations and principles on pollination.

    Vocabulary: Adaptations, Lineage, Modify, Sepal, Pollination, Stamen, Heterostyly, Pistil, Pollinium, Cross Pollination

    Video Clip 5: Carnivorous Plants (5:18)

    James Costa talked about Darwin's experiments and observations with these types of plants.

    Vocabulary: Nitrogen, Bogs, Tendril, Circumnutation, Attribute

    Video Clip 6: Earthworms (6:52)

    James Costa talked about Darwin's experiments with earthworms.

    Vocabulary: Predilection, Micrometer

  • Step 3:

    As a class, discuss the various observations, experiments and discoveries that were presented in the videos as well as the significance of each.

    Activity: Students can conduct their own experiments on one of the topics discussed. They may use one of James Costa's suggestions or research another method they prefer. Students should maintain a log of their observations throughout the process. This could be done in the form of a written journal with notes and illustrations, notes on a computer with diagrams or on a social media platform with photos and notes. Students can present their findings to the class.

Additional Resources

  • On This Day: Charles Darwin

    On November 24, 1859, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a book by Charles Darwin theorizing that all living things evolved from a common ancestor, was first published. Commonly referred to as one of the most influential books of modern times, The Origin of Species was widely controversial upon its publication and continues to be debated today.

  • Bell Ringer: Scientist: Charles Darwin

    Stephen Meyer talked about Darwin


  • Adaptations
  • Attribute
  • Biodiversity
  • Bogs
  • Botanical
  • Botanist
  • Circumnutation
  • Competitive Exclusion
  • Cross Pollination
  • Demographic
  • Dispersal
  • Diversity
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Germinate
  • Heterostyly
  • Hms Beagle
  • Joseph Dalton Hooker
  • Lineage
  • Micrometer
  • Modify
  • Natural Selection
  • Niche Partitioning
  • Nitrogen
  • Phylogenetic
  • Pistil
  • Pollination
  • Pollinium
  • Predilection
  • Quadrat
  • Sepal
  • Stamen
  • Tendril
  • Viable


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