2024 W. Main Street, Suite A200
Durham, NC 27705-4667
Tel: (919) 668-4551
Fax: (919) 668-9198


NESCent Education and Outreach

Evolution 2010: A Workshop for Educators

June 21-23, 2010


Why do we study evolution? And how do we study it? Aimed at instructors at the high school level, this workshop is designed to provide an overview of key evolutionary concepts, evolutionary mechanisms, and explore cutting-edge topics in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biologists and educators at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) will present topics with an emphasis on recent developments and practical applications. The scientific content will be supported by hands on classroom activities, pedagogy demonstrations and information about teaching resources. In addition, participants will learn about initiatives to teach evolution as a unifying theme in the biological sciences, and contribute to the national conversation on this approach to teaching biology.  The workshop will include an educational field trip to tour the Duke Lemur Center, one of the foremost prosimian research centers in the world, as well as a tour of the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center is funded by the National Science Foundation and is located in the Erwin Mill building in Durham, NC. Directions to NESCent are available here.

Participants will receive a $25/day stipend, a collection of resources and materials for teaching evolution, and continuing education credits are available. Limited travel support is also available.  Contact Jory Weintraub ( for additional information. 



This year's workshop is full. 

Please consider applying next year!



Workshop Leaders

Jory Weintraub, Ph.D.

NESCent Education and Outreach

Dr. Weintraub received a Ph.D. in Immunology from UNC Chapel Hill, followed by an NSF-funded postdoctoral fellowship in Science Education.  He taught undergraduate biology for several years at UNC, as well as at several historically minority universities throughout North Carolina.  His areas of focus include faculty development, minority outreach, undergraduate curriculum development and instruction, and instructional technology.

Kristin Jenkins, Ph.D.

NESCent Education and Outreach

Dr. Jenkins has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and has been working in biology education since 1997. She has taught high school and college, developed curriculum with BSCS and other groups, and lead teacher workshops on a variety of topics in biology.

Robin Smith, PhD

NESCent Communications

Robin received a PhD in evolutionary biology in 2005. She then taught undergraduate writing at Duke University for four years before becoming the staff science writer and communications officer at NESCent. Before joining NESCent, she also spent eight years co-teaching a summer research program for academically gifted women and minority high school students from Durham and Orange Counties.

Resource Page

This page includes a collection of resources to support teaching the material covered in the workshop.


Monday June 21
8:30 Coffee and bagels
9:00 Welcome and introductions

NESCent staff

9:30 Tree-thinking basics (Click here for ppt)
Dr. Kristin Jenkins

Education and Outreach, NESCent

Key Concepts: Tree-thinking, or the use of phylogenies to depict evolutionary relationships, is an important method for studying evolution. This tool helps us visualize the evolutionary concept of common ancestry. Understanding phylogenetic trees can help students grasp the idea and explore the implications of common ancestry.

10:00 Tree-thinking activities

10:45 Break

11:00 Molecular Evolution
Nathan Sheffield

Biology Graduate Student

Duke University

Key concept: Variation and inheritance are key concepts in evolution. The mechanisms that generate variation occur at the molecular level, and this is the level at which random processes influence evolution. Molecular research is a powerful tool in asking how evolutionary processes occur.

11:45 Break for lunch

1:15 Genotype to Phenotype activity


2:00 Selection
Dr. Robin Smith

Communications, NESCent

Key concept: Selective pressures, which include natural, artificial, and sexual selection, are evolutionary mechanisms. Individual organisms within a population vary, and these variations make certain individuals more successful than others. When the selective pressures change, the most successful variations change.

2:45 Break

3:00 Selection Activity

Teddy Grahams

3:45 Using Cases to teach Evolution
Dr. Jory Weintraub

4:30 Minute questions/comments

Tuesday June 22
8:30 Coffee and bagels
9:00 Feathery Fossil Record: Why Birds are Really Dinosaurs
Dr. Alex Glass

Instructor, Invertebrate Paleontology and Science Education

Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

Key concepts: The fossil record provides new information about past evolutionary events.

9:45 Archaeopteryx: of Dinosaurs, Birds, and Missing Links

Dr. Alex Glass

10:15 Break

10:30 Teaching Evolution: Looking at the Nature of Science and Evolutionary Applications (click here for ppt )

Dr.s Jory Weintraub and Kristin Jenkins

Key concepts: Evolutionary biology is a wonderful example of the Nature of Science, and vice versa.  Evolutionary research has many important applications in society.

11:30 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 “Systematics or What’s a phylogeny good for?”

Dr. Brian Wiegmann

Associate Director of Education and Outreach, NESCent

Professor of Entomology, North Carolina State University

Key concepts: Systematics is the study of the history of life on earth.  Understanding evolutionary relationships helps us address a number of research and applied questions.

1:45 Field trip to Durham Museum of Life Science

4:15 Discuss ideas for using informal science education opportunities and resources to teach evolution
5:15 Minute questions/comments
5:30 Adjourn for the day

Wednesday June 23
8:30 Coffee and bagels
9:00 Biodiversity
Dr. Trina Roberts

Post-doctoral Fellow, NESCent

Key concepts: Biodiversity is deeply rooted in the evolutionary history of both species and ecosystems.  Understanding biodiversity and the evolutionary mechanisms behind it is key to successful conservation efforts.

9:45 Visit Lemur Center

11:45 Lunch with a scientist

1:30 Student Misconceptions about Evolution (click here for ppt)

Dr. Jean De Saix

Senior Lecturer, Biology

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Key concepts: Evolution is a notoriously difficult concept for students to understand.  Education research has revealed many of the problem concepts as well as ideas for improving student understanding.

2:45 Break

3:00 Putting it all together
Participants work in small groups to brainstorm about how to use the information and resources from this workshop in class.

4:15 Survey, raffle, and final comments
4:45 Adjourn


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Image credits:

DNA - ynse from Poland

Eocene fish - Renee Sylvestersen

Paphiopedilum malipoense - Guillame Paumier