Following in Darwin’s footsteps – win a school trip to the Galapagos Islands
My school wasn’t noted for its field trips – the furthest we ventured in our science classes was the local park. I don’t even recall visiting the nearest science museum. Fortunately, a lack of school trips didn’t deter me from pursuing a career in science, but maybe with a greater sense of adventure, our science teachers may have inspired more of my fellow pupils to do likewise.
To help our intrepid educators, the Wellcome Trust is offering the opportunity of a lifetime to the winners of the Survival Rivals Galápagos Islands competition. Read on to see how you can get your school involved.
Perhaps one of the most famous ‘field trips’ in history – more of an expedition, really – was Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos Islands in 1835, where he travelled aboard HMS Beagle. It was this journey and the many different plants, animals, birds and reptiles that he discovered, that inspired On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, in which Darwin laid out his theory of evolution via natural selection.
Broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough is no stranger to the islands, having visited several times throughout his career.
“The Galápagos Islands are a beautiful and very important place,” he says. “The myriad unique species that Charles Darwin found on his visit inspired one of the greatest and most influential works of all time. The first time I visited the islands many years ago, I understood what Darwin must have seen when he visited over 170 years ago.”
The Wellcome Trust is offering one school the opportunity to send four of its students, together with their teacher, to the islands in a competition to mark the end of Darwin 200, the year-long celebrations of the two hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s birth.
Earlier last year, Sir David helped us launch our school’s activities for Darwin 200, including a ‘Darwin’s Treasure Chest’ of activities sent to every primary school in the country, and our ‘Survival Rivals‘ activities, which are being used by two-thirds of the UK’s state schools and colleges (if your school isn’t participating yet, then there is still time to get involved).
There are three variants of the Survival Rivals kits available, targeted at different ages – all with a ‘reality TV’ theme: “I’m a Worm, Get Me Out of Here”, “Brine Date” and “The X-Bacteria”. The kits explore themes of natural and sexual selection, and antibiotic resistance in bacteria.
We are looking for school groups to find the most imaginative ways to explain the science behind these experiments, recording their results via film or photography. The most clear and imaginative entry will win four students and their teacher a trip to the Galápagos Islands to explore their unique marine and terrestrial eco-systems with scientists on the island.
Full details of the competition are available on the Survival Rivals website.
“On the Origin of Species was a masterpiece of both scientific thinking and science communication,” explains the Wellcome Trust’s Clare Matterson. “By offering one group of students the opportunity of a lifetime to follow in Darwin’s footsteps, we hope to inspire our future scientists and science communicators.”
Could this latest Galápagos Islands expedition be a life-changing experience for one – or four – aspiring Charles Darwins? Could it help generate an On the Origin of Species for the YouTube generation? Get your school involved to find out.
Craig Brierley, Senior Media Officer at the Wellcome Trust