Teaching Evolution Without Tears

Beth Adler, Oak Ridge High School teacher, talks to teachers with a printout of part of the human genome surrounding her on the floor.

Teaching evolution without tears can be a tall order for science teachers in a nation where 46 percent of Americans believe in creationism over science (Gallup Poll), but NIMBioS is trying to help get good information into the hands of teachers.

NIMBioS co-sponsored a special session on teaching evolution and the nature of science last week at the Tennessee Science Teachers Association Conference in Murfreesboro, TN. The session included discussions on the challenges facing teachers that teach evolution in Tennessee, particularly in the wake of recent state legislation that encourages the teaching of “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” regarding evolution. Effective strategies for teaching evolution and the nature of science were also shared in the session.

Forty teachers from throughout Tennessee attended the presentation, “Teaching Evolution Without Tears – From Darwin Day Tennessee.” Oak Ridge High School teacher Beth Adler and Jefferson County High School teacher Lauren Wilmoth¬†shared some of their favorite classroom-tested teaching strategies, including a True/False nature of science activity and a history of life card game where students arrange images representing evolutionary steps in chronological order. Many great ideas can be found in this freely downloadable National Academies publication: Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. They were joined by Michael Meister, who is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) and a student representative for Darwin Day Tennessee.

Beth Wilmoth, Jefferson County High School teacher interacts with session participants.

NIMBioS Education & Outreach Coordinator Kelly Sturner¬†became an organizer of the project as a member of UT’s Darwin Day Tennessee organization and because of her interest in science literacy. Through corresponding with the National Center for Science Education and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Sturner gathered donations of books, DVDs and information packets that were distributed to teachers, and met with the group at NIMBioS as they planned their session.

UT professor in science education Barry Golden also advised on the project.

Darwin Day Tennessee gave financial support to the teachers to cover some of their expenses in attending the conference.

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