In NESCent’s home state of North Carolina, the Darwin Day Roadshow made visits to Western Carolina University, Cullowhee Valley School and Hibriten High School.
The first stop was at WCU in Cullowhee where NESCent Assistant Director for Education and Outreach Jory Weintraub coordinated with Professor Kefyn Catley and Cullowhee Valley School teacher Amanda Clapp to host the first Darwin Day celebration at the university. Jointly sponsored by the WCU biology department, the event drew an audience of about 30 including undergraduate and graduate students, local high school teachers and members of the general public.
The superintendent of Jackson County Schools, Mike Murray, kicked things off with a brief welcome affirming his support for science education and evolution education specifically. NESCent and WCU scientists made 10-minute presentations about their work, and attendees were able to peruse exhibits, specimens and collections provided by faculty and students. Teachers participated in an “Evolution Lesson Plan Swap,” while Darwin trivia, music and video added an interactive and fun element. WCU supplied the hungry-to-learn (and eat) crowd with pizza and drinks, and NESCent provided a sheet-cake celebrating Darwin’s birthday.
Next up, Jory and postdoc Courtney Fitzpatrick headed to Cullowhee Valley School, where they were hosted middle school teacher Amanda Clapp, who had also helped plan the WCU event. Both Jory and Courtney delivered 45-minute presentations to several classes of 6th, 7th and 8th-grade students. Courtney discussed her research and fieldwork on sexual selection of baboons in Amboselli National Park in Kenya, while Jory highlighted Darwin’s life, the significance of his work and applied evolution. Superintendent Murray made a second appearance at Cullowhee Valley where he emphasized the importance of science education and encouraged students to consider one day pursuing careers in the field.
For the final visit, the Darwin Day Roadshow traveled northeast to Lenoir, where they were hosted by science teacher Alyssa Fuller at Hibriten High School. As at Cullowhee Valley, Jory and Courtney each did presentations for multiple classes but adjusted the material to be more detailed and involved for high school students.
The 2013 Darwin Day Roadshow in North Carolina was a very productive trip spanning three different schools in the state. WCU has expressed interest in making Darwin Day a regular event on campus, and Jory has been in communication with Amanda Clapp and Alyssa Fuller to provide additional evolution education resources.