In early February 2013, The Darwin Day Roadshow made two stops in Kentucky and one in Indiana. Jory Weintraub, assistant director for education and outreach at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and NESCent postdoc Mira Han started in Louisville, Kentucky, where high school teacher Jamie Beach first hosted them at Presentation Academy and then professor Kathleen Klueber welcomed them to Spalding University. In Indiana, they visited Washington High School in Washington, where Valerie Clarke hosted the team.
The Bluegrass State
To kick things off, Jory and Mira spent the first morning giving presentations to several different biology classes at Presentation Academy, an all-girls high school. Mira discussed her work in genomics and evolution and spotlighted the evolution of domestic dogs as an example of how genomes change over time. She also talked a bit about her unique background as a Ph.D. computer scientist and how she is now working in evolutionary biology. Jory presented an overview of “applied evolution” to help students understand how evolution is relevant to them in their everyday lives and talked about careers in science.
In addition to these seminars, host teacher Jamie Beach had planned a live, on-air radio interview with Jory on a local morning radio news/talk show, which took place prior to the Kentucky trip. The interview lasted about 10 minutes, during which time Jory discussed NESCent, the Darwin Day Roadshow and the general state of evolution education in Kentucky and in the U.S. and beyond.
The afternoon was spent at Spalding University, a private Catholic university across the street from Presentation Academy. While the university is not formally affiliated with the high school, they have a long-standing relationship and work closely together on many projects. Jory made a presentation on Darwin and his legacy before posing questions about evolution to the audience of about 100 college students.
The Hoosier State
The next day Jory and Mira traveled across the Indiana border to Washington High School (the alma mater of former Tar Heel basketball star-turned-pro Tyler Zeller). While the presentations were similar to those from Presentation Academy, Washington High’s larger student body led the team to do a couple of sessions in the school auditorium rather than individual class visits. Several hundred students from all four grades and all science classes attended.
After school, Jory led a 90-minute teacher professional development session for biology instructors from Washington High and surrounding areas. The superintendent of schools, as well as a couple biology instructors from nearby Vincennes University also attended. The workshop focused on strategies and resources for teaching evolution effectively.
The president of Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. (HASTI) had heard that Jory would be in Indiana for the Roadshow, so she invited him to Indianapolis to attend and present at the HASTI annual professional development conference.The conference, which started the day after the presentations at Washington High, featured K-12 science instructors from all across Indiana. An audience of approximately 75 people attended Jory’s session on evolution-teaching strategies and resources.
Several of the teachers Jory met in Kentucky and Indiana, including those who attended the HASTI session, have followed up with him to request additional information and resources.
Also, host teacher Jamie Beach traveled from Louisville to Raleigh, NC in June, 2013 to participate in NESCent’s three-day summer workshop for high school science teachers. The workshop, which focused on evolution education, was held at NESCent, the Duke Lemur Center and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.
Since then, Jory and Jamie have discussed the possibility of Jamie bringing a group of her students to North Carolina next summer to tour local universities (Duke, UNC and NCSU), visit the Duke Lemur Center and maybe even attend parts of Evolution 2014. This annual conference of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), the Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB) and the American Society of Naturalists (ASN) is being organized by NESCent.