Upper School students in Dr. Elena Fiorica-Howells’ Experimental Biology class learned about evolution on April 10th by watching “Darwin: Journey to a Theory,” a Science On a Sphere presentation created by MBS faculty members from the Science, History and English Departments.
This cross-departmental lesson was developed thanks to contributions from Dr. Fiorica-Howells and Paul Fisher of the Science Department, Ricky Kamil of the History Department, and Darren Lovelock of the English Department.
“Darwin: Journey to a Theory” is specially designed to be shown on Science On a Sphere, an extraordinary display system that uses computers and video projectors to display images and data onto a six-foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. The presentation traces Charles Darwin’s voyage aboard the Beagle that began in Plymouth, England on December 27, 1831. Along the way, important locations that he visited are highlighted, including the Falkland Islands, Argentina; Valparaiso, Chile; Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; and Bahia, Brazil.
Paul Fisher created the “movie” based on raw material from an 8-part BBC series and other assorted bits and pieces. With input from Dr. Fiorica-Howells, Ricky Kamil wrote the script based on Darwin’s journals, and Darren Lovelock provided the narration.
After viewing the presentation, the students discussed the most relevant observations and discoveries that Darwin made at each location, and they considered how his way of thinking developed. By most accounts, the students enjoyed the activity.
"This collaboration activity was really interesting and I really liked that we got to use the Sphere for it," said one student. "It was nice to see things other than from a traditional view of a normal video. I also really liked the subtle details."
Another student said, "I enjoyed this activity because it incorporated science and history into one class. Also, it showed us a more in-depth view of one of the most important discoveries in world history. I thought it was more interesting than just a lecture on the topic."
As a follow-up to the Science On a Sphere presentation, Mr. Kamil will visit Dr. Fiorica-Howells’ class next week to provide a broader context for social Darwinism, exploring the impact of Darwin’s ideas from a social, economic and political point of view.
“We are very excited about this collaborative project,” said Dr. Fiorica-Howells. “This is a first implementation and we are looking forward to expanding on this material.”
The group has already discussed the idea of developing an installation for the Phoebe Stiles King ’49 Gallery in the Math & Science Center that may include a mock-up of Darwin’s cabin on the Beagle, books, and interactive media.