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summer workshop


and the

University of Wisconsin J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution


Evolution 2011: A Workshop for Educators

August 8-12, 2011

Madison, WI


This workshop is for high school and middle school (both pre-service and in-service) teachers,and 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) and J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution 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 be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and include field trips to tour the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, Vilas Zoo and BioCore Prairie.

Registration fee is $25, and includes parking for the week as well as morning coffee and bagels and two lunches.  Participants will receive a collection of resources and materials for teaching evolution. Continuing education credits and housing support are available.  Contact Kristin Jenkins ( or Mara McDonald ( for additional information. 




Workshop Leaders

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 led teacher workshops on a variety of topics in biology.

Dr. Mara McDonald

J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution

Dr. McDonald is the Administrator for the Crow Institute.  She earned her Ph.D. in Zoology focusing on the evolution and ecology of birds in 1988 from the University of Florida-Gainesville. In addition to her work with the Crow Institute she founded the Biocore Prairie Bird Observatory and has taught in a number of different venues on biology, environmental ethics, and science and religion.

Deborah Rook

University of Wisconsin, Geology Department

Deborah L. Rook is a PhD student in the Department of Geoscience at UW. She has a master's in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology from Ohio State and a bachelor's in Biology and Evolutionary Biology from Case Western. Outreach, particularly in teaching evolution, is one of her favorite things to do.

Resource Page

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


Monday, August 8
8:00am Registration, Coffee and bagels
8:30am Welcome and Introductions

9:30am Weird Science
Nature of Science and understanding evolution
Speaker: Elliott Sober, Professor of Philosophy

10:30am Break
10:45am Black Boxes, Mystery Tubes and Goo Bags

Session leader:
11:45am Lunch Presentation

12:45 Break
1:00 pm History of the World Part 1
Geology and evolution
Speaker: Shanan Peters, Asst. Professor of Geoscience

1:45 pm Walk to Geology Museum for tour

3:15 pm Walk back to Genetics/Biotechnology

3:45 pm Journey to the Center of the Earth: Deep Time activity
4:15 pm Wrap up
4:30pm Close

Tuesday, August 9

8:00 am Coffee and bagels
8:30 am Alien
Exploring the interaction between biodiversity and invasive species, and how selective pressures shape communities

Speaker: Don Waller, Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies

9:30 am Walk to BioCore Prairie for tour
Evolution of communities: what belongs, what’s invasive? How has climate change altered the patterns of growth and community composition? How can evolution help us predict what might happen?

11:30 Return to Genetics/Biotech
12:00pm Lunch presentation

1:00pm Break
1:30 pm Little Shop of Horrors

Exploring Evolution through Genetics activity

Speaker: Rick Amasino, Professor of Biochemistry

3:00 pm Break

3:15 pm The Fly
Molecular evolution or how did the fly get his spots?
Speaker: Heloise Dufour, Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular Biology

4:00pm Wrap up
4:30pm Close

Wednesday, August 10
8:00am Coffee and bagels
8:30 am Antz
Speaker: Jonathan Klassen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Bacteriology

9:15am Teaching about co-evolution

10:15 am Break
10:30 am Inherit the Wind
Teaching evolution and dealing with creationism
Speaker: Ron Numbers, Professor of History of Science

12:00pm Lunch in small groups

1:30 pm Planet of the Apes
Speaker: Karen Steudel, Professor of Zoology

2:15 pm Return to the Planet of the Apes: resources for teaching human evolution

3:15pm Break
3:30 Survivor: Selection activities for the classroom

4:15pm Wrap up
4:30pm Close

Thursday, August 11
8:00am Coffee and bagels

8:30am Back to the Future
Phylogenetics and common ancestry
Speaker: David Baum, Professor of Botany

9:30 am Break
9:45 am The Magic Tree House: teaching tree thinking

11:30 am Lunch in small groups
1:00 Room open to set up

1:30 Yours, Mine and Ours
Lesson plan Swap Meet
Teachers share their favorite evolution activity

3:30 pm The Matrix: Computer simulations & Resources
4:15pm Wrap up
4:30pm Close

Friday, August 12
8:00am Coffee and bagels

9:30am Madagascar

Vilas Zoo tour and activity
11:30am Meet in front of lions for wrap up discussion
12:00am Lunch in small groups

1:45 pm Stand and Deliver

What’s in your syllabus? Time to plan how to incorporate evolution in your course
2:30 am Share ideas and resources

3:00pm Workshop evaluation and feedback


More about NESCent and the Crow Institutenescent logo

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is a nonprofit science center dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution. NESCent promotes the synthesis of information, concepts and knowledge to address significant, emerging, or novel questions in evolutionary science and its applications. NESCent achieves this by supporting research and education across disciplinary, institutional, geographic, and demographic boundaries.  The Education and Outreach group at NESCent develops and disseminates resources, provides professional development opportunities and education working groups.  NESCent is jointly operated by Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, and is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Crow logoThe J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution is a cross-college institute supported by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Letters and Sciences, and the Laboratory of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The mission of the Institute is to foster multidisciplinary research to address complex biological problems facing society, and to improve public understanding of evolution through education and outreach.



Image credits:

Camera: Peripitus

Clapperboard: MrGandy

Madagascar: © 2006 DreamWorks Animation

Planet of the Apes: © 1968 20th Century Fox

Dinosaur: Jakub Halun, Baltow Jurassic Park, Poland