Natural Selection: Darwin's Mystery of Mysteries

In this visually stunning program, join young Charles Darwin on a voyage aboard the HMS Beagle observing the diversity of life around the world. With Darwin as your guide, you'll discover how species compete and adapt to changing environments over time. This simple and beautiful mechanism is best known as Natural Selection.

Natural Selection is recommended for ages 4 and up.

Natural Selection is currently available for school groups. To book a group reservation, call (615) 862-5177 at least two weeks in advance.

For More Information

Download the ASC Educator's Guide for Natural Selection

Web sites


  • Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection by Renee Skelton
  • Adaptation and Survival by Susan Glass
  • How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton
  • Genetics by Rebecca Johnson
  • The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure In Evolution Told in Five Chapters by Jay Hosler
  • Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: the Story of Evolution By Laurence Pringle
  • National Geographic Investigates: Genetics By Kathleen Simpson
  • Genetics: A Living Blueprint By Darlene Stille
  • Science Explorer: Cells and Heredity By Pearson Education
Natural Selection is recommended for Grades 4 and up.

TN State Science Standards

Conceptual Strands

  • EMBEDDED INQUIRYConceptual Strand: Understandings about scientific inquiry and the ability to conduct inquiry are essential for living in the 21st century.
    Guiding Question: What tools, skills, knowledge, and dispositions are needed to conduct scientific inquiry?
    GLE (all grades).Inq.6 Compare the results of an investigation with what scientists already accept about this question.
  • STANDARD 1 - CELLS Conceptual Strand 1: All living things are made of cells that perform functions necessary for life.
  • STANDARD 2 – INTERDEPENDENCE Conceptual Strand 2: All life is interdependent and interacts with the environment.
  • STANDARD 4 – HEREDITY Conceptual Strand 4: Plants and animals reproduce and transmit hereditary information between generations.
  • STANDARD 5 – BIODIVERSITY AND CHANGE Conceptual Strand 5: A rich variety of complex organisms have developed in response to a continually changing environment.
  • STANDARD 7 – THE EARTH Conceptual Strand 7: Major geologic events that occur over eons or brief moments in time continually shape and reshape the surface of the Earth, resulting in continuous global change.

4th Grade

  • GLE 0407.1.1 Recognize that cells are the building blocks of all living things.
  • GLE 0407.2.1 Analyze the effects of changes in the environment on the stability of an ecosystem.
  • GLE 0407.4.1 Recognize the relationship between reproduction and the continuation of a species.
  • GLE 0407.5.1 Analyze physical and behavioral adaptations that enable organisms to survive in their environment.
  • GLE 0407.5.2 Describe how environmental changes caused the extinction of various plant and animal species.

5th Grade

  • GLE 0507.4.1 Describe how genetic information is passed from parents to offspring during reproduction.
  • GLE 0507.4.2 Recognize that some characteristics are inherited while others result from interactions with the environment.
  • GLE 0507.5.2 Analyze fossils to demonstrate the connection between organisms and environments that existed in the past and those that currently exist.

6th Grade

  • GLE 0607.2.3 Draw conclusions from data about interactions between the biotic and abiotic elements of a particular environment.
  • GLE 0607.2.4 Analyze the environments and the interdependence among organisms found in the world’s major biomes.

7th Grade

  • GLE 0707.1.4 Illustrate how cell division occurs in sequential stages to maintain the chromosome number of a species.
  • GLE 0707.4.3 Explain the relationship among genes, chromosomes, and inherited traits.
  • GLE 0707.4.4 Predict the probable appearance of offspring based on the genetic characteristics of the parents.

8th Grade

  • GLE 0807.5.3 Analyze how structural, behavioral, and physiological adaptations within a population enable it to survive in a given environment.
  • GLE 0807.5.4 Explain why variation within a population can enhance the chances for group survival.
  • GLE 0807.5.5 Describe the importance of maintaining the earth’s biodiversity.
  • GLE 0807.5.6 Investigate fossils in sedimentary rock layers to gather evidence of changing life forms.

High School

Earth Science
  • CLE 3204.4.1 Interpret the nature of geologic time.
  • CLE 3204.4.2 Investigate the evolution of the earth.
  • CLE 3204.4.3 Interpret the fossil record for evidence of biological evolution.
  • CLE 3204.4.4 Demonstrate the impact of environmental change on the origin and extinction of plant and animal species.
  • CLE 3205.4.1 Interpret the nature of geologic time.
  • CLE 3205.4.2 Investigate the evolution of earth.
  • CLE 3205.4.3 Investigate the history of life.
  • CLE 3205.4.4 Interpret the fossil record for evidence of biological evolution.
  • CLE 3205.4.5 Demonstrate the impact of environmental change on the origin and extinction of plant and animal species.
  • CLE 3205.4.6 Investigate the long-term aspects of global change and explain how these events have influenced current global patterns.
  • CLE 3210.2.3 Predict how global climate change, human activity, geologic events, and the introduction of non-native species impact an ecosystem.
  • CLE 3210.4.2 Describe the relationships among genes, chromosomes, proteins, and hereditary traits.
  • CLE 3210.4.5 Recognize how meiosis and sexual reproduction contribute to genetic variation in a population.
  • CLE 3210.5.1 Associate structural, functional, and behavioral adaptations with the ability of organisms to survive under various environmental conditions.
  • CLE 3210.5.2 Analyze the relationship between form and function in living things.
  • CLE 3210.5.3 Explain how genetic variation in a population and changing environmental conditions are associated with adaptation and the emergence of new species.
  • CLE 3210.5.4 Summarize the supporting evidence for the theory of evolution.
  • CLE 3210.5.5 Explain how evolution contributes to the amount of biodiversity.
Biology II:
  • CLE 3216.2.3 Describe the varying degrees to which individual organisms are able to accommodate changes in the environment.
  • CLE 3216.2.4 Distinguish between the accommodation of individual organisms and the adaptation of a population to environmental change.
  • CLE 3216.4.1 Describe how mutation and sexual reproduction contribute to the amount of genetic variation in a population.
  • CLE 3216.4.2 Describe the relationship between phenotype and genotype.
  • CLE 3216.5.1 Identify factors that determine the frequency of an allele in the gene pool of a population.
  • CLE 3216.5.2 Determine how mutation, gene flow, and migration influence population structure.
  • CLE 3255.2.1 Cite examples of populations limited by natural factors, humans or both.
  • CLE 3255.2.2 Explain population growth patterns and rates.
  • CLE 3255.2.3 Summarize how natural selection influences a population over time.
Environmental Science:
  • CLE 3260.1.4 Relate the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere to the biosphere.
  • CLE 3260.2.2 Discuss the roles of biodiversity and coevolution in ecosystems.
Scientific Research:
  • CLE 3295.3.1 Formulate a working hypothesis to guide research.
  • CLE 3295.3.2 Develop experimental procedures to test a hypothesis.


  1. Name and describe the mechanism for passing traits from parents to offspring.
  2. Describe environmental changes that might cause a species to become extinct.
  3. Learn how mutations occur and how they are passed on to offspring.

Pre-visit Activities

  1. Discuss the structure and geologic history of the Earth. Explore how the surface environment changed between the different eras studied by geologists.
  2. Have students research past changes in climate: ice ages, warm periods free of ice, the Maunder Minimum, sunspot cycles, etc.
  3. Discover how rocks are dated. Explore the common rocks of Tennessee and when those rocks were formed.
  4. Have students research what a fossil is and how it differs from the actual material of the creature from which it formed. Learn how fossils are formed, excavated, documented, preserved, identified, and interpreted.
  5. While most evolutionary change is gradual, some is not. Have students research past major extinction events and efforts to understand the causes.

Post-visit Activities

  1. Have students research how bacteria are evolving in response to antibiotics. Humans have long had an impact on other species. Name at least three species that became extinct due to human activity.
  2. Some crops have been genetically modified to be resistant to insects and disease. Research how this is done and the results to date. How long will the resistance last?
  3. Research how future natural events might impact humans: ice ages, changes in sea levels, meteor impacts, etc.
  4. Research how humans have made wide-sweeping environmental changes. How could global climate change or “supermicrobes” affect modern species including humans?


  • Alfred Russel Wallace
  • amphibians
  • archipelago
  • Charles Darwin
  • Charles Lyell
  • climate
  • circumnavigate
  • Coelacanths
  • dinosaurs
  • DNA
  • Down House
  • earthquake
  • evolution
  • extinct
  • fossil
  • Galapagos
  • geological barrier
  • geological history
  • HMS Beagle
  • mutation
  • natural selection
  • offspring
  • origin
  • predator
  • procreate
  • prey
  • reptile
  • Robert Fitzroy
  • sexual reproduction
  • species
  • tsunami
  • zoology