Teaching evolution

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I went to the opening of the Milner Centre for Evolution on Friday at the university.  It's a rather splendid building by the lake and was built with funds provided by Dr Jonathan Milner who was an undergraduate at Bath a while back.  Click here to see details of the opening which was done by Alice Roberts who's a member of the Centre’s Advisory Board.  Excellent canapés, I was told.

I wish it well, given the rising tide of skepticism about, and hostility to, the idea of evolution from those who are told by elders and betters to prefer metaphysics to real physics and biology.

Both education and research are at the heart of the Centre.  Not just UG, masters and PhDs, but school education and teacher education as well.  Earlier in the day there has been around 100 year 3 children from local schools who, according to two of the speakers, were "running around" and "having a good time".  That's always nice to hear.  The website says that what they actually were doing was "taking part in evolution activities including handling shark skulls to learn about how they smell and making frogspawn beads using jelly."  I guess that was how the sharks smell, not the skulls, which reminds me of an old joke about how an old dog with no nose smells.

The Centre is launching a free online course aimed at primary and secondary school teachers that starts on Monday 29 October to provide "tried-and-tested" resources to support them in teaching evolution.  It turns out that this is aimed at primary and secondary school teachers, students, parents, and anyone interested in understanding evolution.  The learning outcomes are that by the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Reflect that by biological evolution we mean that many of the organisms that inhabit the Earth today are different from those that inhabited it in the past.
  • Describe how species can change and adapt through naturally occurring genetic variations that are inherited.
  • Understand that natural selection is one of several processes that can bring about evolution, and that natural selection and adaptation can occur over large geological times.
  • Assess fossil evidence for human evolution in the context of the living great apes and modern humans.

I'm tempted to do it, not just to learn something, but also to check out the pedagogy.  Maybe it will involve running around ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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