To celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday each year, the scientists and educators of NESCent (The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center) hit the road to bring evolutionary science to schools, museums and town halls in communities around the country. We are particularly interested in reaching out to small, often rural communities which would not otherwise have a Darwin Day celebration.
Our teams talk to students, teachers and the general public about their research in evolutionary science, describe what it takes to become an evolutionary biologist (and what some of the rewards and challenges are), and convey why evolutionary science is relevant to everyone.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE DARWIN DAY ROADSHOW?
- To share our excitement and enthusiasm about the science of evolution, what it is, how it works and why it is important to our understanding of biodiversity, protecting endangered species, health/medicine, agriculture, etc.
- To give our researchers (especially our postdoctoral fellows, who are recent PhDs and will be professors soon) an opportunity to talk about their own research and to give them some experience doing science outreach
- To have our scientists talk to kids about what it is like to work in science careers (“a day in the life of…”), what the rewards and challenges are, and what sorts of opportunities might exist for your students in science
WHAT IS A “NESCent DARWIN DAY SCHOLAR”?
Because we are visiting communities that are new to us, we identify and work with local hosts (typically teachers) who help us design a set of activities that best serve their school and community. These hosts are known as NESCent Darwin Day Scholars.
You know your students and your community better than we do. As a Darwin Day Scholar, you are the key to helping us arrange and orchestrate Roadshow events. Our scientists and staff will work with you on the details and logistics of the visit, but it is your talent and dedication as a science educator and member of your community that ensures success.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL ROADSHOW VISIT LIKE?
This is largely driven by the “NESCent Darwin Day Scholar” (i.e, the host teacher), since you know your school and community. Some examples of previous Roadshow activities include:
- Visits to individual classrooms, meeting with smaller groups of students grade-by-grade, course-by-course
- A large assembly in the school auditorium or gym, for all the science classes, all students from a particular grade or the entire student body
- An outdoor nature walk-and-talk, led by our scientists and intended to explore the natural world surrounding your classrooms and campus
- Talks and hands-on science activities conducted at a local science center/museum and open to families and the broader general public community
- Screening/discussing an evolution-themed movie at a local library or community center
- An evening workshop/talk/Q&A led by our scientists at a local museum for over 50 local science teachers, and providing strategies and resources for teaching evolution
The itinerary is largely shaped by our host teachers, which is why we look for motivated, enthusiastic applicants who will show a lot of creativity and initiative in working with us to coordinate the visit.
WHAT DO “DARWIN DAY SCHOLARS” GET FOR THEIR EFFORT?
Besides the rewards of hearing about some very exciting, cutting-edge work in evolutionary biology and making this experience possible for your students and community, we will also leave you with a collection of resources to enhance the teaching of evolution in your classroom. For more information on these resources, see “Resources for Teachers“.
WHEN DOES THIS OCCUR?
Charles Darwin’s birthday is February 12th. Our scientists and educators typically hit the road the weeks immediately before and after his birthday. We are happy to work with our Darwin Day Scholars to find a time that fits their schedules.
WHAT DOES THIS COST YOU AND YOUR SCHOOL/COMMUNITY?
Nothing! This is part of NESCent’s educational outreach mission. We cover all the expenses. If you’re interested in becoming a “NESCent Darwin Day Scholar” and helping to bring cutting edge evolutionary science to your school/community, click on the “How To Apply” tab at the top of this screen and let us know why you think we should come to you!
A NOTE ABOUT EVOLUTION AND FAITH
Our goals for this program, as stated above, are to discuss the science of evolution and talk with students about careers in science. We are absolutely not interested in challenging anyone’s faith or belief system. From time to time we receive inquiries from teachers or principals about this, and in all cases, when we clearly lay out our goals, it ends up being a non-issue and our visits move forward without any problems or controversy, whatsoever. Prior to participating in the Roadshow, every one of our scientists participates in a full-day workshop focusing on communicating science in positive, non-controversial, non-confrontational ways, and we all have a wealth of experience with this. When we get questions from students about evolution and faith from time to time, our general response is to be open about our focus being on science, and that faith is a personal thing that we are not there to challenge. This approach has led to terrific, fun, controversy-free visits to 10 states across the country!