Frontiers of Science Workshop

Last Saturday, there was a “Frontiers of Science” workshop led by Rob Pennock. This was part of a series of workshops given for secondary school science teachers on science topics, and Prof. Pennock took up effective lab instruction in evolutionary science as his topic. The featured subject was use of the Avida-ED software platform as a means of giving students an interactive laboratory experience in which they can observe an instance of evolution occurring as they watch.

The late dearth of posts was due to getting prepared for this workshop. Part of my tasks included the creation of a new lesson plan for use with Avida-ED to be given its first outing at the workshop. This took up the misconception that fitness is some property inherent to an individual, but must instead be thought of as a property that is defined relative to the conditions of its environment. Rob assigned me to lead the workshop on this new lesson plan. There were both good points and some procedural difficulties encountered, but overall it was well-received, and at least one attendee expressed her intention to use the lesson plan for her class. I’ll be modifying the lesson plan to incorporate improvements based on the experience.

In making introductions of workshop participants, many of the teachers expressed the concern that they quite often encounter students or parents who have the idea that evolution demands that one must choose between faith and science, either rejecting evolutionary science and accepting faith, or accepting evolutionary science and rejecting faith. In some instances, teachers related that they’ve told students to inquire of their pastors what their denomination’s stance is on the matter. For many students attending mainstream Christian denominations, they are told that their denomination does not hold to the “conflict model” so effectively sold by religious antievolutionists, and they can study without fear that they are somehow going against their church by learning the material.

For any science teachers tuning in now, you should be aware of the Clergy Letter Project and its message from over 11,000 Christian clergy that says that one can have a vital faith and not dismiss evolutionary science.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.