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Islington Tribune - by ROISIN GADELRAB
Published: 13 March 2009

Skandar Keynes presents a Darwinian chest to teachers and pupils at William Tyndale School
Evolution of screen heartthrob Skandar

Teenager with Darwin link stars in Narnia films

ON SCREEN he’s the bad-boy traitor who sold out his siblings to the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
In real life, Highbury schoolboy Skandar Keynes is a teenage Hollywood hearthrob and all-round over-achiever who counts Charles Darwin, economist John Maynard Keynes, politician Tony Benn and King Edward I among his ancestors.
Seventeen-year-old Skandar brought a touch of adventure to William Tyndale School in Islington on Wednesday when he presented a treasure chest to help children emulate some of his great-great-great grandfather Charles Darwin’s simpler experiments.
Skandar, a former pupil of Thornhill Primary School in Barnsbury who now attends City of London School, is studying sciences at A-level.
Speaking exclusively to the Tribune, he said: “I’m doing biology, chemistry, maths, further maths and history. When I was choosing I thought I enjoy sciences. They’re not something I can pick up on in the future like English literature.”
He is determined that filming – work on a third Narnia film starts in Australia in July – will not distract him from his studies. “It’s not too hard to focus on work,” he said.
The visit to William Tyndale was arranged to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. He said: “My dad asked if I wanted to do this. I know a little about Darwin. I believe in everything he said. It wasn’t really stressed on me but I’ve been aware of it.”
The treasure chest, provided under a joint project between the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, contains stickers, a plant press, a mini-seed bank and other resources to help children take part in Kew’s Great Plant Hunt.
William Tyndale is the only school in Islington to receive a treasure chest.
Headteacher Tanya Watson said: “The children absolutely loved it. For them it was a terrific chance to have a well-known child actor and direct descendant of Darwin visit.
“Anything that makes science a more creative experience for children has got to be good. It’s about opening children’s minds even more, keeping awareness of the world around them and not just seeing science as a Key Stage 2 Sats paper.”
Angela McFarlane, from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: “The project celebrates Darwin the scientist and shows children that, although he was a genius, the way he did science used simple techniques, looking carefully at what’s around him.
“They can go out and do some of the things Darwin did. They can send the information they find to Kew. We’re going to be making the world’s largest collection of daisy seeds which our scientists at Kew will be experimenting on.”

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