Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: The Tree of Life


The Tree of Life by Peter Sís offers an interesting portrayal of Charles Darwin’s life as a scientist. This book begins with a very good introduction.  It begins,

“Charles Darwin opens his eyes for the first time!  He has no idea that he will (a) start a revolution when he grows up, (b) sail around the world on a five-year voyage, (c) spend many years studying nature, and (d) write a book that will change the world.  Luckily, he is unaware that (e) not everyone will see things his way, and that (f) he himself will have doubts about revealing his grand conclusions.  Here is his story.”

This book is written in an unconventional way in which the text is not in paragraph form.  The different facts, statistics, and information on in the book are dispersed in different areas of each page.  It offers a look inside (an distinguishes between) Darwin’s ‘public life’, ‘private life’, and ‘secret life.’  It also gives a pretty detailed summary of his five year journey around the world in which he studied and recorded data about different animals (with a strong focus on South America).  There are several illustrations in the book- a few of the pages are fully covered with different species that Darwin studied on his voyage.  There are also several diagrams and maps that help further explain Darwin’s findings.  His personal life is also one of the larger aspects of the book and is illustrated throughout it.

Curriculum Connections
SOL 5.1 (e) data are collected, recorded, and reported using appropriate graphical representation6.1 (a)- observations are made involving fine discrimination between similar objects and organisms 6.1 (b)- a classification system is developed based on multiple attributes.

Additional Resources 

  • Students can participate in a lab in which they will look at a variety of birds from all around the world.  They will be able to draw comparisons and differences from the birds after this lab.
  • Students can recreate Darwin’s experience by writing their own Darwin Diary.   The students will record observations of plants, animals, and organisms in their ecosystem.
  • The students can participate in an activity in which they learn about the adaptations of camels. Continuing with Darwin’s idea of evolution, it is important to note adaptations in certain animals around the world!

Book: The Tree of Life
Author/Illustrator: Peter Sís
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Publication Date: October 2003
Pages: 40 pages
Grade Range: 5-6
ISBN: 0744598702

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