The role of cartoons I Costa da Silva et al

ICase stI udyl
Charles Darwin goes to school: the role of
cartoons and narrative in setting science in
an historical context
Paulo Roberto Costa da Silva, Paulo Rogdrio Miranda Correia and
Maria Elena Infante-Malachias
University of S§o Paulo, Brazil
Science education is under revision. Recent changes in society require changes in education to respond to new demands.
Scientific literacy can be considered a new goal of science education and the epistemological gap between natural sci-
ences and literacy disciplines must be overcome. The history of science is a possible bridge to link these 'two cultures'
and to foster an interdisciplinary approach in the classroom. This paper acknowledges Darwin's legacy and proposes the
use of cartoons and narrative expositions to put this interesting chapter of science into its historical context. A five-lesson
didactic sequence was developed to tell part of the story of Darwin's expedition through South America for students from
10 to 12 years of age. Beyond geological and biological perspectives, the inclusion of historical, social and geographical
facts demonstrated the beauty and complexity of the findings that Darwin employed to propose the theory of evolution.
Key words: Darwin; History of science; Biological education; Scientific literacy; Interdisciplinary approach; Narrative ex-
position.
Introduction
The bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth is celebrated in
2009. This is a time for acknowledging his life, history and
unparalleled work that has remarkably changed the develop-
ment of biological science and thinking. This commemorative
occasion occurs during the UNESCO Decade of Education
for Sustainable Development (ESD) between 2005 and 2014
CUNESCO, 2002). Some of the key issues to be addressed
during this period involve a revision of the current paradigms
and practices that have guided traditional science education
throughout the years. The recent change in the direction of
knowledge in society renders traditional education practices,
based merely on information transmission, obsolete (Bybee,
2006; Hodson, 2003; UNESCO, 2005; Veen and Vrakking,
2007). Curriculum planners and teachers must be critical in
their understanding of the knowledge explosion. This debate
should encourage alternative proposals for responding to the
loss of meaning that has affected science education (DeHaan,
2005; Matthews 1989; UNESCO 2005).
The lack of interest in scientific topics on the part of stu-
dents and teachers is occurring in a society inundated with
science and technology. This contradictory behaviour may be
due to the lack of relationships between everyday facts and
the contents of scholarly scientific disciplines. The dogmatic
perspective and the idea that scientific knowledge is a 'final
and unquestionable product' have reinforced this separation.
The consequence is a crisis of meaning in science education
that has been discussed since the end of the 1990s (Donnelly,
2004; Fourez, 1997; Hodson, 2003).
Concepts and processes related to science are frequently
presented without consideration of the historical and cultural
contexts in which they developed. This fact may be due to
the epistemological gap between natural sciences and literacy
disciplines, as described by Snow (1959). The 'two cultures'
effect was born in the research field (responsible for producing
knowledge) and also affected the educational field (responsi-
ble for diffusing the produced knowledge). As a consequence,
students frequently perceive scholarly science as a monolithic
and complex set of ideas. The focus on transmitting an increas-
ing amount of information does not support the establishment
of conceptual relationships between science (including its
isolated scholarly disciplines) and other kinds of knowledge
to contextualise it (such as historical, social and political ele-
ments). Moreover, scientists are seen as special human beings
who 'discover' the mysteries of nature apart from any social
context. Students represent them as 'individual geniuses'
which is neither a correct, nor a useful, model to be followed.
The fact that science is perceived as a distant activity by
students and teachers can be changed by establishing links
between scientific contents and the history of science. A po-
tential consequence of this linkage is an increase in student
interest, because science as an institution made by human-
kind has a genuine taste of adventure and shows our strug-
gle for freedom of thought (Holbrook and Rannikmae, 2007;
Kolsto, 2008; Matthews, 1989). Moreover, historical aspects
of scientific development can also foster scientific literacy
that can be considered the new goal of science education for
the 211 century (Deboer, 2000; Duschl, 2008; Pedretti and
Forbes, 2000; Santos, 2007).
Figure 1 shows a theoretical framework in the form of a
Volume 43 Number 4, Autumn 2009 1 JBE 175
Costa da Silva et al I The role of cartoons
concept map (CM). The need for revising science education
goals is presented in the upper centre and upper left portion
and involves 'scientific literacy' and 'science as a social prac-
tice' as key concepts. The loss of meaning caused by isolated
,scholarly disciplines' and the desire for integrating knowledge
from diverse disciplines are presented in the upper right part
of the CM. The central bottom section of Figure 1 confronts
the 'history of science' (and science education goals) with the
'two cultures' (and the epistemological gap verified among
scholarly disciplines). From these ideas we suggest that the
history of science can be considered as one possible bridge to
link natural sciences and literacy disciplines (Figure 1).
A full understanding of science as a social practice requires
the use of the 'pertinent knowledge' principle (Morin, 2001)
and exploration of the disciplinary dialogue involving sciences
and the humanities (Donnelly, 2004; Duschl, 2008; Fourez,
1997; Hodson, 1992; Infante-Malachias and Correia, 2007;
Pedretti and Forbes, 2000). The need for this integration can
be noted in the various attempts to indude interdisciplinarity
in the curriculum at all levels of formal education (Klein, 1996;
Lattuca, 2001; Lattuca, Voight and Fath, 2004; Moran, 2002).
Some of the greatest scientific debates through the cen-
turies and the scientists' role in them should be considered
when planning science lessons, in order to provide a historical
overview and the cultural context of the construction of sci-
entific concepts and theories. The history of science can also
emphasise science as a human enterprise (Kolsto, 2008; Mat-
thews, 1989). Unfortunately, the majority of the textbooks
used in K-12 education do not fully explore the relationship
between science and history (Leite, 2002), which hinders the
Figure 1. Concept map of current challenges to be overcome by science education.
achievement of scientific literacy (Deboer, 2000; Donnelly,
2004; Fourez, 1997; Pedretti and Forbes, 2000; Santos, 2007).
The aim of this work is to present the possibility of using
the history of science to overcome the epistemological gap
between the natural sciences and literacy disciplines. For this
purpose, we devised a five-lesson didactic sequence to deal
with the life and history of Charles Darwin using cartoons.
These cartoons narrate some events from Darwin's expedi-
tion on the Beagle during his passage through South America.
Our context
The didactic sequence was used during the second semes-
ter of 2008 in a public school located in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Thirty-six students aged 10 to 12 attended the classes, which
were conducted by the school's science teacher and one of
the authors (PRCS). At that time, PRCS was a pre-service
teacher in the last year of his undergraduate course at Escola
de Artes, Cibncias e Humanidades (School of Arts, Sciences
and Humanities at University of Sio Paulo). Active partici-
pation as a teacher in the classroom, with full supervision of
the school's science teachers, is an experience that all un-
dergraduate students must take to conclude their pre-service
licentiate course in Brazil.
An overall description of the five-lesson didactic sequence is
presented in Table 1. Each lesson lasts 50 minutes. Narrative ex-
positions are used throughout the activities because of their po-
tential for communicating history to the students. The literature
shows that narratives have been explored in science education
(Norris et al, 2005). Narrative expositions are a useful strategy
that can change the traditional roles assumed by teacher and stu-
dents during dasses. Figure 2 com-
pares the interaction patterns that
prevail in the traditional transmission-
and-reception classroom (Figure 2a)
and when narratives are used by the
F_7_• 7 •teacher (Figures 2b-2c). The former
_ is characterised by a uni-directional
flow of information from the teacher
to the students (Figure 2a), who are
arranged in lines and rows. The latter
Srequires a different classroom set-up
with the students seated in a cirdc In
=fq:ý_ dithis case the interactions can be from
SfcLLY the teacher to the students (telling
the history phase, Figure 2b) and
among pairs (discussing the history
phase, Figure 2c).
Classroom procedures
do, Lesson 1. Plymouth harbour and the
4-/ beginning of the expedition
Students were invited to rearrange
their chairs and sit in a circle (Fig-
ure 2) to make a trip around the
I •x world on an English 1911, century
7 O ship. A model made by Lego
TMt
pieces was shown, and the students
were told that a young naturalist
called Charles Darwin, 22 years
old, is leaving his girlfriend, his
family and his career as an Angli-
can clergyman to engage in one of
176 JBE I Volume 43 Number 4, Autumn 2009
f ]
c~) FNCE
V
I  
 ni
The role of cartoons I Costa da Silva et al
the greatest scientific expeditions of the modem Table 1. Five-lesson didactic sec
era. During the telling phase, the following points Dirwin's life and his expedition
were highlighted, using some pictures from the Lesson Stage of the
book Tree of Life: expedition
Darwin wanted to be a doctor, but did not suc-
ceed.
The invitation for the expedition was made by I Plymouth/ Tenerif
his teacher, who was called J Henslow.
Darwin's father, Dr Robert Darwin, was against
Darwin's involvement in this expedition.
The discussion with the students focused on 2 Cape Verde Island
personal experiences involving trips to other
Brazil
towns and the differences they noted. This put all
students into the context and they were more mo- 3 Argentina/ Tierra
tivated to keep following Darwin's steps. A schol- Fuego
arly model of the Earth's globe was presented and
the students were asked to imagine an expedition 4 Chile
around the world on a wooden ship in a time be-
fore electric power. 5 Galapagos Islands
Lesson 2. Cape Verde Island and Brazil: biological
exuberance
Darwin's expedition visited the volcanic Cape Verde Island as the fossilisal
before reaching Brazil; this fact was an unexpected surprise The role of fos
for the students. The teacher let them know that Darwin was life over time v
astonished with the richness and beauty of Brazil's tropical replica and sar
forest and that he took notes about everything he could. The formation of th
cartoons presented in Figure 3 were shown to discuss Dar- geological poin
win's work as a naturalist (Figure 3a) and his disagreement The expediti
with the slavery that existed in Brazil at the time (Figure 3b). America and D
Students were asked to locate the forest seen by Darwin The 'fueguinos'
on a map of Brazil. Some of them pointed to the Amazon asked why. The
rainforest and they were again surprised to learn that Darwin extinction of th
visited the Atlantic Forest on the Brazilian coast. They noted
that their school was part of the Atlantic Forest in the past Lesson 4. Chile: f
and that less than 10S of the original forest now exists. This Exploring the
connection between the history and the geographical location Chile. The And
of their school reinforced the link between the students and win decided to
Darwin's expedition. This motivation was enough to keep the tonished again
students' interest high during the following classes. More sci- 2000 metres ab
entific elements were explored from this point onwards. how those fossi
sion took place
Lesson 3.Argentina
and Tierra del Fuego: finding fossils
went there as '
Different types of rocks (igneous and sedimentary) as well the mountains,
Figure 2. Interaction patterns in classrooms: (a) uni-directional information flow from teacher to students
in traditional classrooms; (b) the telling history phase and (c) the discussing history phase when narrative
expositions are used. The teacher is represented by a black circle and the students by white circles.
quence for exploring cartoons and discussing
on board the Beagle through a narrative exposition.
lel
Topics related to
scientific concepts
Dolphins at Tenerife
Atlantic Forest
exuberance
Fossil, igneous and
sedimentary rocks
Fossils in the Andes
mountain range
Finch, turtle and
iguana species and
their differences
Topics related to
Darnin's expedition
and personal history
Invitation to the
expedition
Adaptation on
board the ship
Repulsion about
slavery in Brazil
Fanny's marriage
Meeting with the
'fueguinos'
ion process were presented during this class.
sils in helping scientists understand changes in
tas the main subject. Students handled a fossil
nples of igneous and sedimentary rocks. The
ese rocks was discussed and compared from a
jt of view.
on reached the southern extremity of South
arwin met people who lived in Tierra del Fuego.
are no longer in that region, and the students
students formulated hypotheses to explain the
e 'fueguinos' and listed them on the blackboard.
finding fossils on the Andes mountain range
Pacific Ocean, Darwin and his crew visited
es mountain range drew his attention, and Dar-
climb it mounted on a mule. Students were as-
when they learned that Darwin found fossils at
ove sea level. They were encouraged to explain
Is came to be in the mountains. A lively discus-
,and three hypotheses put forward: the fossils
live creatures', somebody carried the fossils to
or the region was long ago at sea level. The
teacher further explored this last explana-
tion and some students mentioned that
the land could have moved up due to the
movements of the tectonic plates. The final
minutes of this class was used by the teach-
er to suggest a link between the Earth's in-
temal dynamic (tectonic plate movement],
the fossilisation process, and the existence
of fossils in the Andes mountain range. At
this point, biological and geological per-
spectives were merged to fully explain this
part of the history. Interdisciplinarity was
present in the classroom.
Lesson 5. The Galapagos Islands: species
diversity
Darwin's expedition arrived at the Gala-
pagos Islands. Biological diversity was
Volume 43 Number 4, Autumn 2009 1 JBE 177
D
NJ
Costa da Silva et al I The role of cartoons
UMUU 64:4..) 1UA *
- 4
Figure 3. Cartoons manually drawn by PRCS, selected for use in the classroom activities: (a - left) Darwin's enchantment with surprising and exuberant nature during
his first experience In a tropical forest; (b - right) The Beagle arrives at Bahia de Todos os Santos (Brazil) and Darwin learns about a place with unique cultural
features and slavery, which is the subject of serious discussions with Fitz Roy (Beagle's captain).
highlighted and the drawings made by Darwin were dis-
cussed as evidence of small differences between animals of
the same species located on different islands. Finches, turtles
and iguanas were used to exemplify Darwin's observations.
The finches' beak differences were shown through pictures
and the students were asked to explain them. All sorts of
ideas came up, and the teacher gave additional information
about the dietary effect of the food that these birds could
find on each island. The word 'adaptation' was mentioned by
a student and its concept was developed by the teacher, who
linked it with evolution.
Cartoons and Darwin in our classroom
Some of the cartoons prepared for use during the activities
are shown in Figure 3. They were an effective way to foster
interdisciplinary approaches, going beyond the boundaries
typically imposed by scientific disciplines. Beyond Darwin's
enchantment with the exuberant nature found in the tropical
forest (Figure 3a), cultural and social aspects of a Brazilian
city (Bahia de Todos os Santos) visited by Darwin during his
expedition were highlighted (Figure 3b) to explore the role
of 'non-scientific' knowledge to contextualise science discus-
sions. This kind of connection shows how the history of sci-
ence can deal with the lack of meaning of'scholarly science'
and how it can foster scientific literacy in the classroom.
The rationale adopted for drawing the cartoons was based
on the following considerations:
To present science as a human construction that can be
influenced by social, political and economic conditions found
at the time and place where the science was produced.
178 JBE I Volume 43 Number 4, Autumn 2009
To highlight the role of the history of science in chang-
ing the way science is traditionally taught in the majority of
classrooms.
To show that the book The Origin of Species written by
Charles Darwin in 1859 had a tremendous impact on the
way humanity perceived itself in connection with nature.
The 'evolutionary' turning point would not have been pos-
sible without all the experiences Darwin had during his five-
year expedition on board the Beagle through tropical lands
in South America.
It is important to stress that the cartoons drawn for this
work refer to the main events that Darwin experienced dur-
ing part of his expedition through South America. These
choices were made by the authors, and they are subjective
in nature. Therefore, the story should not be presented in
exactly the same format to other readers (students); it should
be built through the selection of the facts and rebuilt in a
narrative/interpretative way with students in classroom.
From this perspective, the history of science can be a way
to make students aware of the importance of reading and
interpreting texts. Their previous and daily experiences as
human beings are idiosyncratic, and different ways to inter-
pret the cartoons naturally appear. The teacher must mediate
this process to avoid wrong and naive understandings and to
detect and transform inadequate concepts. The interaction
patterns indicated in Figure 2b (the telling history phase) and
Figure 2c (the discussing the history phase) can be used in a
cyclical way to achieve an adequate mediation process during
narrative expositions.
The teacher can also work with cartoons to explore the
The role of cartoons I Costa da Silva et al
narrative features of the history of science. The beautiful col-
lection of events that resulted in Darwin's account of evolu-
tion can be discussed to allow students to note that he had
the luck to live surrounded by inspiring ideas in his historical
time (Gould, 1997). These ideas were responsible for guiding
Darwin's interpretation of his observations and then propos-
ing the theory of evolution.
Using the cartoons in th--dtdac-tic- csequ-t-eescribed in
Table 1 made science classes more interesting, meaningful
and interactive. The students were active thinkers during
all proposed activities, and a shift of language level (closer
to students aged 10-12) changed the teaching and learning
processes in the classroom.
The study of Darwin's expedition offered an interesting
opportunity to explore the interdisciplinary nature of the
history of science. As the core of this didactic sequence, the
history presented through cartoons allowed the teacher to
introduce scientific knowledge from that time (the 19T cen-
tury), from different disciplines, such as geology (the study of
minerals and of rock strata formation), astronomy (the study
of celestial events for guiding travels across the seas) and
botany and zoology (study of animal and plant species col-
lected in different places). These are just some of the ways in
which an interdisciplinary approach can be used to organise
the contents of science classes. Other historical moments of
scientific and technological development can be used equally
effectively to spread the history of science through the for-
mal curriculum of science education at all educational levels.
Every teacher must be aware of the importance of finding
trustworthy sources of information about the historical facts
used when creating the cartoons. They also need to be aware
of the role that the history of science should fill. The useful-
ness of any cartoon will depend on the author's sensitivity and
knowledge, as well as his or her ability to make the appropri-
ate choices for specific aims and audiences (different cartoons
should be devised for the same event when it is presented for
elementary and high school students, for example).
In this case, Darwin's expedition provoked discussions
about Brazilian history, geographical localisation and scien-
tific contents related to biological diversity. All of the car-
toons used a set of images and text that were adequate for
the target audience (students of 10-12 years of age). As a
result, the teaching of evolutionary biology was not confined
to an abstract discussion involving scientific concepts. It also
considered the history of a scientist (Charles Darwin) and
the adventurous nature of scientific entrepreneurship, which
is hidden for those who do not practise science and its meth-
ods daily. Scientific and technological development can be
perceived as a passionate and exciting fight for the freedom
of thought.
Final considerations
Science education must be revised given the new demands
posed by the knowledge society. New perspectives using the
history of science and interdisciplinary approaches may be
useful for fostering scientific literacy and the understanding
of science as a social activity. This epistemological framework
can be explored in classrooms using narrative expositions
(Figure 2). This form allows more opportunities for students
to explore their individual models of history by interacting
with their peers (Figure 2b). While it is not explored in this
work, it is worth mentioning that information technology
(IT) makes it possible for students to draw their own car-
toons and express their own understanding.
This study acknowledged Darwin's fabulous contribution
to biological science and took advantage of the bicentenary of
his birth to 'invite him into school'. Darwin can tell his own
history through cartoons to children and young people who
may only know him by his name (if they do know his name!).
The main character in the cartoons is a young naturalist: this
humanises Darwin and his discoveries, bringing this context
closer to the students and relating it more to cultural, eco-
nomical, ethical and political issues (Figure 3a and 3b).
The five-lesson didactic sequence (Table 1) was more
challenging and reflective for the students, supporting the
development of skills related to critical thinking. Moreover,
it allowed the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach to
overcome the epistemological gap between the natural sci-
ences and literacy disciplines (Figure 1).The history of science
can be a bridge between the 'two cultures' in the classroom
to foster scientific literacy. It is an important prerequisite for
ensuring autonomous citizenship in the 21st century.
Acknowledgments
The authors thank the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvi-
mento Cientifico e Tecnol6gico (CNPq) and Fundago de
Amparo d Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo (FAPESP) for
funding our research projects. P R C da Silva is in debt to the
Pr6-Reitoria de Graduagdo da Universidade de Sao Paulo for
the provided scholarship.
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TITLE: Charles Darwin goes to school: the role of cartoons and
narrative in setting science in an historical context
SOURCE: J Biol Educ 43 no4 Aut 2009
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