The Southern Ocean and penguin evolution with Dr Michael Dunn

Lesson overview

Following on from their study of penguin adaptation in lesson 10, students explore how penguins might have evolved to suit past environmental changes. The core of this lesson is the Penguin Evolution Game, which simulates the six stages of adaptation that lead to evolution. This mission is best suited to older students in Key Stage 2.

Learning outcomes

  • Define the terms evolution and extinction
  • Explain how penguins became adapted to their habitat
  • Explain how adaptation led to the evolution of penguins

Lesson steps

  1. Mission statement from Dr Michael Dunn (5 mins)
    Students are introduced to their lesson’s mission by Dr Michael Dunn.
  2. Penguin evolution presentation (25 mins)
    Explain the process of the evolution of penguins using a series of Slides and accompanying script.
  3. Penguin evolution game (15 mins)
    Students play a penguin evolution simulation game to see how the six stages in the process of adaptation could have led to them evolving over time.
  4. Evolution card sort (10 mins)
    Students consolidate their understanding of the evolutionary process using a card sort activity.
  5. Evolution storyboard (5 mins)
    Students demonstrate their learning by creating a storyboard of the evolutionary process. A simplified cloze activity has also been provided.
  6. Reflection (5 mins)
    Students reflect on their learning, considering what they have learnt, what connects to their prior knowledge and what they still want to know.


By task
To support lower ability students, focus on the idea that changes in the environment can cause extinction or evolution, and a clear definition of what evolution is (see Subject Update 5) to facilitate this.

To challenge higher ability students, focus on how to write a concise explanation using vocabulary precisely. Use the script in Activity Overview 11a to facilitate this. Students can demonstrate their learning using Student Sheet 11d.