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Darwin Correspondence Project

Darwin's Fantastical Voyage

Key Stage: 
Art and design

These activities explore Darwin’s life changing voyage aboard HMS Beagle. Using letters home, Darwin’s packing lists and colour charts, pupils consider the preparation for and demands of a long sea voyage and increase their comprehension, vocabulary, creative writing and design skills. 

Starter Presentation

Learning outcomes

By the end of the activities pupils will be able to:

  • describe Darwin’s experience of the voyage and why it was important 
  • write about an imagined journey based on what they have learnt
  • explain the route that Darwin took on the voyage and name some places that he visited
  • describe some of the amazing animals that Darwin found on the voyage and create their own

Ask the expert video

Dr Alison Pearn describes Darwin's life-changing voyage.

Activity 1: Darwin’s letters home

Find out how Darwin felt about the voyage by reading his letters home.

Activity 2: Write a letter home

Imagine you are on an amazing voyage and describe it in a letter.

Activity 3: Packing for a voyage

See what Darwin took with him on the voyage and decide what you would take.

Activity 4: Mapping out the animals

Discover the animals that Darwin encountered on the voyage and work out where he saw them.

Activity 5: Make a colour chart

Design a comparison chart made with colours from the natural world.

Activity 6: Draw a fantastical creature

Create a creature from an imagined world.

Further Activities: Splice the Mainbrace

Work out what these shipping phrases mean and see how many we still use today.

Discussion questions

Thinking beyond and testing your learning

Darwin brought back plants, rocks, fossils and animals from his time on the Beagle voyage.

If you were to go on a long sea voyage to discover rare plants and animals, what issues would you need to think about for you, your safety and the things that you might find?

Think about...

  • What would you need for your survival?
  • What happens if you find something very rare?
  • Would you pack it up to send it home?
  • Would you try to keep it alive? How?
  • What other ways could you record it, without damaging it or its environment?
  • What might happen if you introduced the plant or animal to a different environment back home that was very different to where it had come from?
  • If it survived, what might happen to the local plants or animals?


    Schools Gallery


Pupils from Meldreth Primary School, Cambs, learn about Darwin’s fantastical voyage

Pupils from Meldreth Primary School write a letter home from the voyage

Discovering a Toxodon

Packing for a voyage

Writing letters home

3D herbarium, St Luke's Primary School, Cambridge

Pupils from St Luke's Primary School, Cambridge, create 3D herbaria

Pupil cartoon of the peppered moth story

Pupils from St Matthew's Primary School, Cambridge, read a letter from Charles Darwin