Photograph courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Students will:
  Learn about Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle and his visit to the Galápagos Islands.
  Become eco-tourists on a “new exploration” of the Galápagos Islands.
  Click through an interactive map of the Galápagos Islands to read actual and fictional journal entries from a fellow eco-tourist.
  Use what they know about the Galápagos Islands to explain which entries were correctly written about the Galápagos Islands and which entries are “false.”

  Online Resource: Interactive Map of the Galápagos Islands
  Copies of Student Printout: Darwin’s Voyage on the HMS Beagle
Click on this icon to download free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. You will need this program to access materials in PDF format.

In 1835, Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle. This five-week exploration was one of many stops during his five-year journey on the Beagle, but Darwin’s observations of the Galápagos played a key role in his theory of evolution and set the stage for a century and a half of scientific investigations about the origin of species and evolution.

In this activity, students will learn important facts about Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle and his visit to the Galápagos Islands. They will also learn the names and locations of the various islands of the archipelago with an online map. Then, by clicking on selected islands, they will read journal entries, both real and fictional, from a modern-day exploration of the islands that were visited by Darwin. Using what they have learned about the Galápagos, the students will explain which entries are real and which are fiction.

Note: At the time Darwin wrote his journal, he referred to the Galápagos Islands by their English names. Because the islands are a part of Ecuador, we have changed Darwin’s quotes to reflect the modern, Spanish names. To avoid further confusion, we have also updated the spelling of certain words.

1.   Divide your class into pairs and give each pair of students a copy of the Student Printout Darwin’s Voyage on the HMS Beagle and Sample Darwin Journal Entries. Have them read this overview of Darwin’s trip and his visit to the Galápagos Islands.
2. Review the locations and names of the islands that make up the Galápagos Archipelago. Ask each pair of students to view the Online Resource Interactive Map of the Galápagos Islands.
3. Ask your students to click on the islands denoted with a flag icon to read journal entries describing a modern-day visit to each island. Explain that four of these journal entries are accurate and three are false, containing incorrect facts. Ask each pair of students to identify which journal entries are possible and which ones must have been fabricated.

1.   Which journal entries were “false,” containing incorrect facts? What information in these entries led you to this conclusion?
  The Marchena journal is false because the islands are made of volcanic rock, which is not conducive to banana and pineapple farms. Also, the residents of the Galápagos Islands are Ecuadorian and therefore speak Spanish, not English.
  The Pinta Island journal is false because the islands were formed of volcanic rock and do not have vast grasslands. Animals such as giraffes and zebras do not live in the Galápagos, nor is the climate excessively hot.
  The Genovesa Island journal is false because the Beagle sailed to Tahiti after leaving the islands, not back to South America, and there are no palm trees and hot breezes in the Galápagos Islands.

2. Once you have selected the false journals, which ones must therefore be accurate journals from a Galápagos tourist? Describe the geology of the Galápagos Islands as observed by Darwin. What evidence in Darwin’s journal showed that the islands were volcanic?
3. On which islands did Darwin encounter other humans? Why were these groups on the Galápagos Islands at the time of the Beagle voyage?

This activity uses the following principles of the National Science Education Standards for grades 5-8:

Populations and Ecosystems
  A population consists of all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place and time. All populations living together and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem.
  The number of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and abiotic factors, such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition. Given adequate biotic and abiotic resources and no disease or predators, populations (including humans) increase at rapid rates. Lack of resources and other factors, such as predation and climate, limit the growth of populations in specific niches in the ecosystem.

Understandings about Science and Technology
  Many different people in different cultures have made and continue to make contributions to science and technology.

History of Science
  Many individuals have contributed to the traditions of science. Studying some of these individuals provides further understanding of scientific inquiry, science as a human endeavor, the nature of science, and the relationships between science and society.
  Tracing the history of science can show how difficult it was for scientific innovators to break through the accepted ideas of their time to reach the conclusions that we currently take for granted.

This activity is an online modification of a chapter from NSTA’s publication Ecology and Evolution: Islands of Change. Visit the Ecology and Evolution Web page to learn more about the range of Galápagos-oriented activities that can be found in the full-length book.

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