Exploration and Emergence Institute 2003

Forum 7 - Evolution in the Classroom

(see Forum 6 for background and beginning of this discussion)
Name:  Sheila
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Changes
Date:  2003-07-24 14:58:47
Message Id:  6157
We are constantly changing and evolving in relationship to our environment and society. As Dr. Paul stated, it is the patterns of evolution, we are constantly changing?
My thoughts travel to the "cockroach" and the existence of cockroaches billions of years ago. Roach Evolution!
Name:  Wendy
Username:  simplyMarrvelous@yahoo.com
Subject:  Teaching Evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:01:05
Message Id:  6158
The community I serve is populated with a 75+% of Belief in God. Therefore, a measure of care must be given in how Evolutionary Theory is delivered. I enjoyed the way in which Grobstein presented it as a story. This is just one 'story' to explain the way in which humans came to be. That along with Blanks computer adaption can make this subject more appetizing.
Name:  Dawn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Evolution in the classroom?
Date:  2003-07-24 15:03:31
Message Id:  6159
It is an educator's nightmare--whether to teach evolution or creationism or something else or nothing at all. Personally, I prefer to present all sides of an argument and let people make their own decisions(or in the case of children, their parents make the decision). As an 8th grade teacher I am constantly reminding my students that they should hear all sides of an argument and then weigh the information. I understand Darwin's story, but don't agree with all of it. I am amazed at how some take a logical premise and take it to illogical extremes. Some may say that believing that 1 God created everything on Earth and in Heaven is an illogical extreme--so be it. I do not force my views on my students and believe that students should be allowed to explore all possible "stories". What will I tell my students about evolution? Not much, it wasn't in the curriculum at last glance. But it always makes a good debate topic--evolution vs. creationism. Evolution starts nowhere and ends never. . .I need at least a beginning or an ending, therefore God is always in the mix for me.
Name:  Gerry Brown
Username:  brownthankyou@aol.com
Date:  2003-07-24 15:05:11
Message Id:  6160
Evolution, Interactions, Force, and Motion, Reproduction, Adaptiveness, what a commotion. Modification, Diversity, Patterns and Clumps, all this is doing is forming more bumps.When will it begin, when will this end........ what are your predictions because right now I'm having a coniption, I really would like to know just a little more
Name:  Antoinette
Username:  tonisisco@aol.com
Subject:  Creation and Evolution in the classroom
Date:  2003-07-24 15:05:41
Message Id:  6161
I find it interesting that there is a clear distinction between church and state in education that was not all intended in Jefferson's letters : which in summary stated that the state should not organize a religion, such as ws the case in England with the Anglican Church. One of the problems , as a person who strongly believes in creation by GOD , is in teaching from the evolutionary theory is that I am bound by law to leave out the possibility that their could be a creation story. If science by enlarge is non-judmental and bias free, why then are other stories looked at as "primative?" Mutation over time is evident, none of us look exactly the same as we did when we were born, nor even one year ago. Clusters of similar organism live in proximity to each other. Slight mutations from one generation to the next are also very evidient, yet is evolution the only story, the only feasible story, or the one that scientists since Darwin's time have been looking to , to fill the information ? I always wondered, if change is natural, why are single cell organisims still alive today? Why have'nt more things changed into something else? Why is a pre-historic leaf fossil so similar to current leaves? More questions, lead to more questions...and it is turtles all the way down.
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:07:42
Message Id:  6162
I haven't changed my mind about God being the creator. Based on Doug's face activity, I can now better appreciate the idea of evolution. As long as I think of something(assignment) that the students are working on as an assignment that is evolving; then evolution works for me. I really saw faces evolving in the spheres, but there is no way that I can buy into the idea that billions of years ago or even now that something just came to be or decided to exist.
I'd have to think about how I'd teach the concept of evolution and the assignments associated with the concept ,but I'm certainly willing to give it a shot based on ideas shared with the institute participants. Thanks.
Name:  Judith Odom
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:09:31
Message Id:  6163
How I would use evolution in the classroom? I would relate how plants and animals have adapted to meet the needs of their environment over short and long periods of time. I would use the face model to help the students understand how making a certain selection can have various effects on that particular organism. I would want them to explore using various strategies, such as, half of the class would select only one face to change 10 times and the other half of the class would be able to make any selection for 10 times. After the results were gathered, we would look for similarities and constrasts in our groups' various selections. We would then have a discussion of these results. The students will try to find patterns that relate to why some of their faces would have to adapt to their environment and why some have not been successful and have died off.
Name:  Randal Holly
Username:  kr092389@aol.com
Subject:  Revist of Evolution versus Creationism
Date:  2003-07-24 15:11:45
Message Id:  6164
I think the far more important question is where our obligation lies. Are we educators or indoctrinators? If one is sure of his/her ideals as an educator, then the teaching of evolution, or any theory for that matter, is a no brainer. However, those who are not within this fold, will find it difficult seeking a good fit between the two very distinct theories. I would imagine these individuals do not treat the theory of evolution with the proper amount of emphasis, if at all. What does that mean? Well, those who completely follow the tenets of christianity, or some other faith, tend to demonstrate an unwillingness to advance their intellect in this area of discussion.

So, consider this. Were the heavens and Earth created in one day or eight billion years? How one responds to this says a lot about whether you were educated or indoctrinated. Remember, some of the more fanatical regimes were, and continue to be, heavily rooted in indoctrination. I do not lose sleep over this anymore, but I am "very careful" about how I choose to impart any of my knowledge.

Name:  Sylvia
Username:  sylacoop@aol.com
Subject:  Evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:18:59
Message Id:  6166
The idead of teaching evolution does not sit well with me. I am uncomfortable. Hearing Paul's explanation has made me feel the need to
explore the topic in an attempt to develop a means to approach this subject in the classroom.
Name:  Mitch
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  More thoughts about Evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:19:42
Message Id:  6167
I don't actually teach evolution but I will get sucked into conversations about it with my students from time to time. The idea will show up in a story or some child will say, "Is it true that we're all descended from apes?"
Paul's method of presenting it as a story is, I think, very useful and diffuses the potential for damage in espousing evolution as the version "smart" people believe.
In the past I've said that there is so much evidence that a) the earth and living beings have been around for billions of years and that b) there is such a thing as natural selection, that it's undeniable that evolution accounts for diversity and the way things are now in the world. I always hedge my bet by saying that there's no sure way to know if there's a Creator or not but, if it turns out that there is, it would take a really smart Creator to come up with as sophisticated a system as evolution. In other words, evolution can be one of god's creations. A belief in evolution does not have to negate a belief in a supreme being.
I think it's important to give kids ideas that help them make sense of things. I don't think it's necessary to destroy or disprove the beliefs they bring to the classroom. This, I believe, is also true of any person to person interaction. If I get a new idea that is more useful to me than my present assumption, I'll integrate it or adopt it. That's evolution.
The Greek myths are useful in making sense of some things in the world and I teach them as myths. I don't expect my kids to believe them.
Name:  Judith Odom
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  What I've learned so far
Date:  2003-07-24 15:25:08
Message Id:  6168
I learned from the four days of class that everyone has a different point of view towards learning. What should be taught and how it is taught. I enjoy reading the comments about the various topics. Finding patterns in teaching is a good idea. Basically, today's topic is difficult for me to totally accept. I teach evolution as one theory about how life began and I usually relate it to adapations of plants and lower animals.
Name:  brian malin
Username:  malinb1@yahoo.com
Subject:  post comments -evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:33:21
Message Id:  6169
Presenting evolution by emphasizing understanding of present day forms by the understanding of past forms can help in overcoming student concerns when they study evolution in the classroom. Knowing simple past changes create new forms over long streches of time can be separated from religious opinions when teaching the subject. computer models like those in Netlogo can be useful in this area. I like the idea of expressing evolution as a "good story " that answers many of the questions of why things are the way they appear.
Name:  Regina
Username:  reginatoscani@hotmail.com
Subject:  reflections on Thursday's discussions
Date:  2003-07-24 15:37:21
Message Id:  6170
The theme of emergence occurred often today. One, how people explore and make sense of their environment is done in an emergence fashion. (As long as the person exploring has questions that need to be answered.) Evolution (or the theory of evolution) appears to be an emergent system. There is nor underlying plan, creator, or intention. Finally, for me, the conflict between creation and evolution can be view as an emerging belief/theory/principal. As I continue to learn, reflect, experience, my understandings change. I can combine both theories, and come up with an explanation that satisfies me (for now at least).
Teaching evolution is not a component in the curriculum that I am presently teaching. (A modified Life Skills with functional academics). However, at times, there is a reference made about evolution. (Usually something like, "Are we related to monkeys?") I start off by saying that people have different answers to that question. Some religions have beliefs about how life started that other religions do not have. I then explain that many scientists believe that people did evolve from other animals. There are fossils that support the theory of evolution.
Usually, after saying the above, there are several more hands in the air, each one with a different question or comment. If there were time, I would call on each student and try to address whatever he or she has on his or her mind. Many times children would insist (often with emotion) "God made us". I have to again explain that if that is their belief, fine. But many others do not have that belief. I try not to be drawn into a long discussion, (kids want to discuss things instead of doing the assigned task). If one child wants more discussion, then I tell him/her that we can have a private talk.
Name:  Marlene
Username:  marlene3k@aol.com
Subject:  Randomness
Date:  2003-07-24 15:37:46
Message Id:  6171
Random selection based on individual perferences. Placing my mouse over certain images gave a certain sense of control, because if I didn't care for a parrticular image I simply clicked on a different in the hopes that I would see something more to my liking. Also I began to realize that my choices needed to be based on more than just one factor only, but that I'd also needed to focus on just what I had to work with. In other words you can't make lemonade from apples.

I began to wonder how would I use this issue of evolution in the classroom.........First I think that a mini lesson based on The Causes of Prejudices might lead to helping my students see the need to understand the connectinessof it all.

Name:  Lois
Username:  loismackey@yahoo.com
Subject:  teaching From aAn Evolution Perspective
Date:  2003-07-24 15:47:33
Message Id:  6172
Because of my grade level (third), I don't have to concern myself with how I would teach from this perspective.But if I did,my stance would be to teach science from a creationism theory alone with the evolution theory.
I believe that creation and evolution go hand-in - hand together when exploring for answers,and that the children should be able to explore science from both perspectives.However, this can pose some problems with the students parents.

I have come to understand that, science is a way in which one use various means to understand the world and its habitants,and while exploring, many of other questions will emerge from this exploring that leads eventually to more exploring.

I know that our sessions have only left me with more questions to explore. I wonder if this was our facillitators purpose?????

Name:  Marita
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  teaching/evolution
Date:  2003-07-24 15:48:40
Message Id:  6173
"Evolution" seems to be an emotionally, politically-charged word.
In attempting to teach the concepts involved I would suggest introducing them with a more "palatable" label, for example, "generated change".
To illustrate the concepts the students could be provided with or asked to think of things that change over time in response to changing environments. For example, the offerings at fast food restaurants change over time in response to what is popular with the public. Currently as the population has changed, Southwestern and Cajun cuisine have begun to enter the restaurant scene.
Name:  JK Johnston-Malin
Username:  malinb1@yahoo.com
Subject:  Evolution- Review
Date:  2003-07-24 16:19:14
Message Id:  6174
Evolution is a major topic in high school biology classes. Traditionaly, most of my students have come to the topic with many mixed emotions, and thoughts. Two of the most common statements they have presented in class are: They don't "believe" in evolution, and that they don't think that they have descended from "monkeys".
Offering students a view of any topic different from their own always requires being sensitive to their points of view. I have found that presenting the information in a non-threatening format, as scientific explanations and models of best fit to the evidence, and engaging them in activities that allow them to understand the concepts are important. Many high school aged students arrive with pretty sophisticated concepts. Re-assuring them that Evolution is not a religious construct to be "believed" but an elegant scientific idea to be studied, challenged, accepted or rejected based upon its merits is important.
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  thursday ...
Date:  2003-07-25 12:31:51
Message Id:  6178
Thanks, all, for the rich conversation yesterday. Which in turn led to more conversation which in turn triggered the following ...

My daughter Rachel asked me last night whether I "believed" in the story of evolution. And, pretty much without thinking, I said "no". And Rachel thought that needed some explanation/justification. Which surprised me. So, here's the story, for her and you.

I don't "believe" in stories, wherever they come from. I listen to them, learn from them, and make use of them when I find them useful. To "believe" in a story is, for me, to end the ongoing process of discovery, of "getting it less wrong", and that's not something I'm inclined to do. I'd rather go on changing/evolving/emerging.

And I don't tell stories in order to get other people to believe in them. I tell the stories I tell because I find those stories useful and so offer them to others for whatever use they might be to them.

I think there may be something generally important in all this, and significant for our thinking about "emergent pedagogy". The general idea is that education ought not to be about getting people to "believe" things, ANY things. It ought instead to be about sharing "stories" ... with the idea that different people may find different stories useful in different ways. And that we should be helping people figure out not only what stories are more useful but WHY they are more useful, so everyone can get better at telling useful stories themselves.

One more maybe useful extension. There is, in the emergence literature, a lot of interest in sandpiles. And what I realized can be perhaps summarized by saying we are all "grains of sand". The important point is that the shape of the sandpile and the way it changes isn't controlled by any grain of sand, but it is influenced by every grain of sand. So no one is "responsible" for the whole pile, but everyone is meaningful in contributing to what the whole pile is/becomes.

Hope the evolution story is, in one way or another , useful to all of you. I find it a VERY useful story. And, one way or another, I hope it contributes to the shape of our common sandpile.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  From Paul to Ralph Waldo: The Inevitable Incompleteness
Date:  2003-07-26 11:24:30
Message Id:  6182

A propos Paul's comments about not "believing":

this year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American Transcendentalist whose essays have been very important to my thinking and living. A number of new books have come out this spring in honor of Emerson's "bicentenary," and the reviews have reminded me what an "emergent"--which is to say "unsystematic"--thinker Emerson was. One of his friends described his "dots of thoughts"; a contemporary critic called his way of writing "pointillist." These images make me think of the NetLogo simulations we've been running in this week's Summer Institute: all those screens full of moving "dots" and "points" (aka "turtles"....)...

I spend a lot of my time thinking about--and very much trying to live-- an ethical life. And I often wonder how--or if--my continually changing, continually evolving sense of the world, and of myself, has any kind of integrity. Returning to Emerson, re-reading him through the light of all our talk, this past week, about emergence, makes me think it does.

Emerson famously wrote,
"With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." As one of his biographers, Lawrence Buell, has said, "Emerson was exceptional...for adopting as a stylistic principle that intellectual honesty requires being faithful to those oscillations between epiphany and blankness; to the inevitable incompleteness."

"Being faithful to the oscillations"--that as good a description of emergence as I've (yet) come across.

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