Darwin’s Dilemma

In Darwin’s Dilemma students will be introduced to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through simple and interactive activities. Students will explore how animals are adapted to suit their habitats and will gain an understanding of how these adaptations come about through the process of natural selection.

An adult cheetah yawning, taken during the Institute of Zoology's ongoing Cheetah Conservation Program.

Key Stage: KS2 – Year 6 recommended

Duration: 45 minutes

Capacity: 35 students


National Curriculum Links:

Evolution and Inheritance

Pupils should recognise that living things have changed over time; identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution



Intended Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Recognise that living things have changed over time
  • Identify an adaptation that makes an animal well suited to the habitat in which it lives
  • Gain an understanding of variation in offspring and suggest which variations may be more successful in a given environment


Many objects from the natural world used in this session are loaned to us by HM Revenue and Customs.

Please be aware that though we aim to use a live animal in this session, we do not guarantee that they will be present – animals can fall ill or be unwilling to be handled and their welfare is ZSL’s first priority. 


For this session


Before you session:

  • Refresh terms “habitat” and “adaptation”


While at the zoo:


Link to session

Location in the zoo

Reticulated Giraffe

Adaptations to Savannah


Pygmy Hippo

Compare adaptations to common hippo


Common Hippo

Compare adaptations to pygmy hippo



Adaptations to forest

Base Camp

Asian Elephant

Adaptations to forest – compare to African Elephant



After your visit:

  • Pick a planet from the solar system and research into the climate. Create an animal that could live on that planet and describe the adaptations that it would need to be able to survive.
  • Show your creatures in a gallery and see if your classmates can guess which planet your animal is best adapted to!