North Carolina (2013)

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.

Special booths at the WCU's first Darwin Day encouraged interaction

The first-ever Darwin Day at Western Carolina University featured a number of exhibits, specimens and collections

A birthday cake for the man of the hour, Charles Darwin

Postdoc Courtney Fitzpatrick poses with a birthday cake for the man of the hour, Charles Darwin

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.

Several scientists made 10-minute presentations

Several scientists made presentations with topics ranging from microbes to primates

WCU students, faculty and members of the community attended the event

WCU students, faculty and members of the community attended the event

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.

Teacher Amanda Clapp shows the education resources brought by the Roadshow

Host Amanda Clapp shows the education resources brought to Cullowhee Valley School


Superintendent Mike Murray encourages Cullowhee students to consider science careers

Jory with Amanda Clapp and principal Karthryn Kantz

NESCent Assistant Director Jory Weintraub with Amanda Clapp and principal Kathryn Kantz

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.

Courtney discusses her fieldwork in Kenya

Courtney discusses her fieldwork in Kenya

Courtney with host teacher asdf

Courtney presents  host teacher Alyssa Fuller with a Darwin Day Roadshow certificate