Coming soon is February 12. You may remember that date as Lincoln's birthday, but it's also Charles Darwin's birthday. They were both born on the same day, in the same year: 1809. For many years, I have reminded my biology students of that special day, with pictures of the man, his voyage on the Beagle, his family, his many books, and "Happy Birthday Darwin" greetings on my bulletin board. Many classes would prepare cupcakes and/or other tastys to celebrate the day. We would also share some selected readings (excerpts) from Darwin's Origin of Species (see some examples below), and commentaries on how Darwin's findings laid the groundwork for what has become our modern understanding of evolution and how it underlies all of biology. That day has more recently "evolved" into Darwin Day: <http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/blogs/happy-darwin-day-and-evolution-weekend>, celebrated nationally and even internationally (be patient, may be slow to connect). And here's some additional information from NCSE. To seek existing Darwin Day events nearby, get more ideas for Darwin Dary, or to register your own Darwin Day, go to <http://darwinday.org/events/> (site may be slow to connect and display).
Evolution vs Religion: You may also want to obtain a suitable Darwin-like costume to wear to class, so you can role-play Darwin as you read a few selected excerpts from his books. If you do this, try to get the most realistic quality costume you can to make your presentation all the more believable. You should also consider sharing the fact that evolution is acceptable to most main-line religions, and why religion-based objections to evolution miss the key difference of science and religion: that, for good reason, supernatural explanations cannot be used in science. Such explanations are essentially untestable (are not disprovable). Also, why evolution is not an atheistic belief, and why it's not a religion. Many scientists are quite religious. Many see evolution as God's actual mechanism of creation. On the other hand, as Darwin studied the biological world, he became less convinced of the accuracy of established religious teaching of creation. What he observed in the real world just didn't fit. He became especially down on religion when his precious eldest daughter Annie suffered scarlet fever or TB and died at the age of ten.
An interesting influence on history: Darwin's publication of the Origin of Species in 1859 coincides with the lead up to our Civil War (1861-1865). It's interesting to note that Darwin and his family were all very much opposed to slavery. And his Origin book was well-received by many of the abolishionists (those opposed to slavery), because it strongly supported the idea that different races had all descended from a single ancestor, that all living humans were very closely related. In contrast, many of the pro-slavery people believed that white and black humans were different species, and that the role of the black species was to be slaves. So, in a sense, Darwin, like Lincoln, was a hero to the slaves. This is something you could share with your history classes.
Excerpts from Darwin's Writing:
Talk Origins: The Origin of Species (Ch. 4: Natural Selection)
Darwin's Phylogenetic Tree (sharp copy, corrected): Download the PDF before printing.
Darwin's Tree Explained by Darwin (from last part of Ch. 4, Origin of Species): Download the PDF before printing.