Last month’s issue of Evolution (aka Evolution Int J Org Evolution, aka Evolution (Lawrence Kansas), aka some other confusing way of referring to the journal published by the Society for the Study of Evolution) contains two articles on teaching evolution. The first is on creating museum exhibitions to showcase evolutionary biology. The article focuses on Explore Evolution, a project in which multiple museums in the midwestern United States put up permanent exhibits about evolution. The exhibits encourage problem solving to understand how evolution works and have multiple examples from diverse areas of research — including HIV, Drosophila, finches, and humans.
The second article is about improving how high school biology courses teach evolution. The article closes with a list of ten ways to improve the coverage of evolution in introductory biology textbooks:
- Demonstrate that evolutionary research is current and ongoing.
- Clarify that evolution is not a synonym for natural selection.
- Use fresh examples.
- Show how evolution is relevant to human lives.
- Use examples of evolutionary biology from popular media.
- Include experimental evolution.
- Integrate evolution throughout the book.
- Emphasize “tree-thinking.”
- Emphasize the diversity of life, not memorization of scientific names.
- Emphasize the great magnitude of evolutionary time.
Each of these points is expanded upon in the article, and I’m especially fond of numbers two, three and seven. There are many biologists who don’t understand the difference between evolution and natural selection, which is pretty sad. Designing an intro biology course around evolution allows all the material to be unified around a common theme. This gets a bit tricky when teaching about photosynthesis or cellular respiration, but evolutionary concepts can be worked into those lessons as well.