Dr Tiffany Taylor, University of Reading
Tiffany - I wrote this book because I thought that currently the way that evolution is taught, as a starting point is itís taught as quite a static process. Organisms have differences because they live in different environments, but it doesnít really describe how organisms from one environment can move into another environment, and then adapt to this new environment to take on the changes which make them a better fit. What I wanted to do is write a book which is very simple aimed at young children which told the story of these little characters called the Rinkidinks, involved in a natural disaster which splits them between two very different environments which over time they have to adapt to. And then one day, they bump into each other in the forest and they donít recognise but little did they know that they actually come from exactly the same background. So, I wanted to get the idea of how itís a dynamic process that takes a lot of time rather than it being very static.
Kat - And so, youíve managed to get quite a lot of what we understand about evolution, how it works into it. How did you find writing it in such simple terms?
Tiffany - It was difficult, but actually, evolutionary processes follow quite simple laws, and really, all you need is reproduction, variation and selection, and without using those terms actually, I think it's something that children can visualise quite easily. I mean, weíre all different, weíre all unique, thatís the variation. Terrible things, natural disasters, you can see that that can cause changes in the environment, that if they want to reach their food then they've got to have certain changes which are going to help them do that. So, I think the concepts themselves are something that children can relate to and you donít need this complex terminology in order to explain it.
Kat - And what are your hopes for the book?
Tiffany - Well, I really hope that primary school teachers can use it as a resource, in order to help perhaps them understand evolutionary processes a bit better because I mean, a lot of them haven't had any sort of training, any sort of scientific training, and give them also classroom activities which will help solidify these new concepts which are going to be introduced to the children and perhaps, even open up some forums for which they can ask questions, or children can ask questions about evolution, the things that perhaps the teachers feel that they can't necessarily answer that comfortably. So, I just really want it to be a resource for teachers to explain the concepts of evolution, giving children a better grounding so that when itís re-introduced at a later stage and key stages, that they are coming from a more solid foundation.
Kat - That was Tiffany Taylor, from the University of Reading. And you can find out more about Little Changes, including downloadable activities for kids and resources for teachers, at http://www.rinkidinks.co.uk/