KS2: Charles Darwin – The biggest name in Victorian science

Charles Darwin is one of the biggest names in science. A true Victorian explorer and scientist, he travelled the world to develop his theories.

In this short film, we learn a little about his journey, motivations and the things he discovered along the way. We see our narrator Scherrikar Bell tell us all about Charles Darwin and how he had a huge impact on science in the Victorian era.

But, it’s not all narration; throughout we cut away to see a fun take on the adventures of the famous scientist.

We touch on history and geography as Scherrikar talks about Darwin’s journey to the Galapagos Islands; the scientific method, and of course Darwin’s theory of evolution, natural selection and selective breeding.

This short film is from the BBC series, The Victorians.

Teacher Notes

These films introduce a character that can be used as a jumping off point for cross-curricular learning. This can be applied to a variety of subjects across the Key Stage 2 curriculum.

This series of short films is designed to introduce real historical figures in an engaging context that can be explored by both students and teachers to help understand a variety of subjects.

The format runs through a few key stories or elements from the lives of the historical figures and applies them to a subject that can be discussed or explored in the classroom. The films act as a catalyst to kick-start ideas and introduce students to a world that can cover all kinds of subjects.

Each short film should offer you lots of opportunities to create activities and schemes of work that take an element of the film and expand on it in the classroom with a curriculum-based learning objective in mind.

The films should leave pupils feeling like they have both a basic knowledge of the Victorian character and that they are engaged with the fun personalities that the film portrays.

The aim is give students a context to understand a variety of subjects that co-exist in real scenarios.

Before Watching

Before getting started with the film, you could introduce your students to the Victorian era. Roughly when it took place historically, what it was like to live in that time and how it’s different from today.

Another useful approach would be to give your pupils a short introduction to the character, just sticking to the key points to pique their interest.

Before playing the film you should ask pupils to keep an eye out for the different subjects, ideas, and objects that are spoken about in the film.

At the end of the film you could ask the class to speak about what they’ve seen. This should bring up plenty of jumping off points for you to expand on.

To really bring the history to life you could set a themed day and ask students to wear costumes or adopt a special timetable to reflect the Victorian classroom.

You could ask the students what they already know about the character that features in the film to get a feel for their understanding. Then if the film mentions something they know and have mentioned they’ll feel affirmed in their knowledge and engaged with the film, but also any new information will help them to feel like their understanding has improved.

After watching

Following the film there should be activities lined up to take the learning in the film further.

Introducing more detail to the stories and developing the understanding of the elements that have been touched upon in the film.

These could be based around a subject. For example, as the film talks about natural selection and dogs, there could be an example to explore other times humans have used natural selection to breed certain traits into living things (e.g. carrots).

Also, a lot of the history that is explored in these films still exists today in one form or another. It could be an idea to explore how different subjects have changed between the Victorian era and now – or if the theories and ideas still hold up today. In the case of Darwin there has been a huge shift in public opinion of his work, which could be interesting to explore.

Next Steps

The next step should be to take the understanding of the subject that is in the Victorian context in the film and develop it into a deeper understanding of the subject that is required by the curriculum.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching at Key Stage 2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Curriculum for Excellence First and Second Level in Scotland.

More from The Victorians:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel – A total genius of engineering
Pablo Fanque – The greatest Victorian showman
Florence Nightingale – The founder of modern nursing
Queen Victoria – The ultimate Victorian