Great New Website to Learn About Evolution

There is a terrific new website designed to help teachers and students learn more about evolution that is finally up and available for public use. The Understanding Evolution site was an enormous project that has been under development for quite some time under the auspices of the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), funded primarily by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation. To quote from the site's opening announcement:

The Understanding Evolution web site -- written for teachers but accessible to the general public -- is intended to provide "one-stop shopping" for evolution education. The web site is rich in content, with sections on the nature of science, evolution itself, the different lines of evidence supporting evidence, evolution's relevance to everyday life, widespread misconceptions about evolution, and the history of evolutionary thought. There is also an extensive section especially for teachers, giving advice on teaching evolution, ideas for lesson plans, ways to avoid confusing students, and answering common student questions.

One of the best things about the project was the cooperative effort between the scientific community and teachers. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but PhD scientists can sometimes be a bit...verbose. Your average PhD geologist or geneticist is going to have a difficult time communicating the concepts and techniques of their field at the level required to teach elementary or secondary students effectively. So when they put together this site, they put the brilliant scientists from the Department of Integrative Biology and the Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley, and the NCSE, together with real school teachers with a love of science.

A lot of dedicated people put in an enormous amount of time to make this site a reality. When I was at the University of California Museum of Paleontology for a conference a few months ago, I got to see a preliminary version of the site and got to meet many of the people involved in making it happen. I'd like to single out a few of them for special recognition. Al and Sharon Janulaw are a husband and wife teaching team. They are both, I believe, past presidents of the California Science Teachers Association and are the collective force behind the North Bay Science Project. Together they have some 60 years of experience teaching science to kids in kindegarten through 8th grade, and to meet them is to wish that you had been lucky enough to have teachers who could inspire you to love science as much as they do. And Judy Scotchmoor, who is the Director of Education and Public Programs at the UCMP, is an absolute dynamo. One of those people that make you wonder how on earth they manage to juggle a million things at once without dropping a ball. Judy taught middle school science for 25 years and, like the Janulaws, is exactly the kind of teacher we all wish we'd had while growing up. With their dedication to helping their fellow teachers through projects like this one, maybe a lot more of our kids will be lucky enough to experience the enthusiasm and love of science that these wonderful people brought to their classrooms for so long. Our children will undoubtedly be better for it.

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