Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution by studying wildlife, particularly finches on the Galapagos Islands off the west coast of South America. Summer campers at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in Ashland followed in Darwin's footsteps, figuratively speaking.
The young science students studied the globe to understand that the islands are near Ecuador, the country to which they belong. By creating a volcano demonstration, they learned how the islands were formed, and by making three-dimensional maps, they now understand the land's varying topography — the crater lakes and lava tubes that Darwin studied so intensely.
Then they got busy learning about the concept of adaptation of species, the mechanism of natural selection and other findings during a week of observing, experiencing and documenting.
How did plants and animals arrive on the Galapagos Islands? Campers scattered wildflower seeds after they studied many ways that seeds are dispersed. They learned how animals made the 600-mile journey by swimming, flying or hitch-hiking, and they wrote short stories from the perspective of the various animals that inhabited the cluster of islands.
They also studied about camouflage and other means of adaptation, the way something changes to best meet its needs in the particular environment in which it lives.
Campers practiced opening and closing various bird beaks and had a "feeding frenzy" to see which beaks were adapted to best pick up various types of seeds of the plants growing there.
By putting their hands in ice water with and without rubber gloves, they learned about the insulating effects of blubber and how sea lions have changed to fit their environment.
By donning flippers of various lengths, they learned about the adaptation for movement in water, and how difficult it is to mobilize on land with webbed feet. Maybe this is a concept they can put to use during summer swims.
— Sally Peterson