Harvard Museum of Natural History: 8th Grade Author Talk

Harvard Museum of Natural History: 8th Grade Author Talk
Posted on 10/06/2017
On Friday, September 15th, the Amigos 8th grade attended a talk “Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory” as part of the The Evolution Matters Lecture Series at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH). Dr. James Costa discussed the inventive side of Darwin, detailed in his new book, Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory. Following the lecture, the students visited the museum galleries, where Harvard students and museum educators led by Jennifer Cross Peterson, Senior Educator at the HMNH. demonstrated a selection of Darwin’s experiments.

DarwinDr. Costa’s book is about how Charles Darwin, iconic evolutionary biologist, was a naturalist with a passion for experiments. Sometimes quirky, and always illuminating, Darwin’s experiments were an ever-present part of his home life.

Students learned about earthworms, bees, carnivorous plants, and “climbing” plants in the museum galleries after the author talk. The students designed mock duck feet with the author (Darwin used real duck feet) to investigate how mollusks could travel from pond to pond.

HarvardGreat Student Quotes
“I really did not know that Darwin was a jokester. I always figured that he was a serious guy.”

The “presentation was very interesting and it made me want to try out the experiments that Darwin did.”

“I loved seeing a new word of Darwin, it was really enlightening. It was a very unique feeling seeing someone completely new revealed to me.”

“I enjoyed learning not only what Darwin did in terms of biology and how it has affected our modern world today, but also what kind of person he really was…”

“Thank you to the museum for allowing us the opportunity to learn more about evolution and history through interactive activities that I really benefited from...”

“I liked how he showed us how he experimented with his own inventions and ideas.”

“You (Dr. Costa) have expanded my interest in scientists and how there life outside of science really matters."

“When I would look at the photos of Darwin I always thought of him as a very non-social, mean guy. Through your presentation I have learned about how funny and nice of a guy he was.”

“Another thing I took away from his presentation is that for science experiments you don't have to be in a lab with a lab coat on, you can do it in your backyard or a park. I had always thought that science experiments always took place in labs.”

“I found the presentation incredibly informative and at the same time, professionally humorous, making it very enjoyable to listen to…”

“You(Dr. Costa) have deepened my knowledge on both the life of Darwin but also gave me sense of how some great discoveries have come and not necessarily from a people sitting at fancy desks."

“I learned that making mistakes is the key to success because each time you make a mistake, you learn and grow from it, which Darwin showed us.”

“I learned is that he did his experiments with friends and family in his backyard.”

“I have always been a bit of a history buff but this really had me engaged and thinking as you elaborated on Darwin the person instead of Darwin the scientist from the textbooks.”

“The experiment we did with the duck feet was very interesting and educational, but in a fun way”

“I really enjoyed learning about your Darwin’s crazy yet interesting experiments (my favorite was when he played music to worms).”

“I found it interesting how they all seemed to make sense no matter how bizarre they were. I learned that scientists don’t always need fancy equipment to make great discoveries.”

“It was interesting to be shown a different side of a traditional scientist, well known for his angry expression (caused by the 30 minute waiting period involved in taking a 19th century picture, as we learned), his giant white beard, and his gigantic biological discoveries, most notable natural selection…”

“Sometimes, silly experiments can lead to a revolutionary discovery”; it’s not bad to be always curious and wondering about how things on Earth are the way they are."
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