Good News About Evolution and Education

It's not all gloom and doom in American science education. This week brought some good news, as some of Philadelphia's experts in science, history and public education are stepping up to the plate, offering a program on evolution geared for middle and high school teachers. It will happen Feb. 11, which is the day before Darwin's birthday.

One of the lecturers, Michael Weisberg, has been a great friend to Planet-of-the-Apes. There were a number of hurdles I had to cross before I could start the weekly column, not least of which was an assignment to write the definitive history of evolution. Dr. Weisberg was a great help, guiding me through parts of "On the Origin of Species," and making sure I didn't make any mistakes or, heaven forbid, tpyos. The result is in the Evolution 101 link on the blog home page. It's not the definitive history, but it's been vetted by experts.

An undergraduate student, Paul Mitchell, is also heavily involved. Kudos to him. Here's what the Penn Museum sent me about the program. I'll try to go if I'm in town that day:

This year, Penn Museum is teaming up with the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia to celebrate Charles Darwin's 203rd birthday (he was actually born February 12, 1809)  with a Human Evolution Workshop geared to middle and high school teachers. The program takes advantage of the Penn Museum's recently installed exhibition "Human Evolution: The First 200 Million Years," as well as materials developed by the American Philosophical Society Museum for their 2009 exhibition, "Dialogues with Darwin." The Workshop is free and teachers can receive three credit hours for attending.

Michael Weisberg andPenn student Paul Mitchell team up with Jenni Drozdek of the APS Museum and Jennifer Reifsteck, our Community Engagement/Education department's teacher program coordinator.

Human Evolution Teachers’ Workshop:  Saturday, February 11, 2012

  10:00am – 10:10am 

 Sign-in and Welcome  

10:10am – 10:40am
Human Evolution
Paul Mitchell  

Paul will refresh your content knowledge and teach you something new about the evolutionary history of the human species

 Paul studies biological anthropology and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and is the current president of the Undergraduate Anthropology Society.  He works in the Penn Museum Skeletal Collection and Fossil Casting Lab.  His research interests are primate and human evolution, evolutionary theory, and functional morphology.

 10:40am – 11:10am
            Human Evolution:  The First 200 Million Years Exhibition Walk-Through
            Paul Mitchell

 11:10am – 12:00pm
How Evolution Works
Michael Weisberg

 Michael will focus the basics of evolution – adaptation, maladaptation, unity of life, and diversity. 

 Michael Weisberg is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.  His research focuses on the philosophy of science, especially the role of idealization in biological and chemical modeling and public understanding of science.

 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Human Evolution Demystified:  Practical Applications for the Classroom
Jenni Drozdek and Jennifer Reifsteck

 Pair up with a partner and explore classroom activities associated with evolution concepts.  These activities were developed for Dialogues with Darwin, an exhibition arranged by the American Philosophical Society in 2009, and Surviving:  The Body of Evidence, an exhibition arranged by the Penn Museum in 2008.

 Jenni Drozdek is Curator of Education at the American Philosophical Society (APS) Museum, where she develops teacher and school programs, trains the museum's guides, andoversees visitor services.  Along with the APS Museum's Director and Associate Director, she develops public programs and helps implement artist projects.  She received her Ph.D. in art history from Case Western Reserve University.  

 Jennifer Reifsteck develops teacher professional development activities for teachers, drop-in family activities, and classroom workshops for 2nd-9thgrade students at Penn Museum. Jennifer also works as an occasional Museum Guide at APS.   She received her Master’s in Museum Education at University of the Arts.