University of South Florida

College of Arts & Sciences

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CELEBRATING THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE EDUCATION AT USF

Darwin Days at the University of South Florida (USF) is an extensive, interactive, and interdisciplinary science education outreach event hosted each year to encourage understanding of evolution. The event was created in collaboration with Mr. Larry Plank, the Executive Director for Science in the Hillsborough County Public Schools to directly support the curriculum of k-12 students in science education, specifically in evolution.

There has historically been a lack of appreciation of evolution in Florida, and only in 2008 were science standards revised to include the teaching of “Diversity and Evolution of Organisms (Florida Department of Education, 2008). However, many teachers are still uncomfortable with the material (Fowler & Meisels, 2010). The barriers to understanding and acceptance of evolution indicate a lack of trust in science and a lack of scientific training and critical thinking.

This lack of understanding is at the heart of important social matters like understanding antibiotic resistance, climate change and acceptance of vaccinations. An important mission of Darwin Day is that professional scientists find creative ways to counter the misconceptions of how science works and remind people of how the advances of modern society depend on the scientific method.

Dr. Christina Richards

Dr. Christina Richards, Associate Professor, Integrative Biology, USF

The faculty at USF have worked to develop a series of lectures, workshops, hands-on participatory activities, and dialogue between students, teachers, USF professors and leading national speakers. The cross-disciplinary Darwin Day team includes researchers from USF Departments of Anthropology, Geology, History, Integrative Biology and Philosophy, the College of Education, the Center for Scientific Literacy and the Humanities Institute. In 2020, the Darwin Days event also partnered with nearby Moffitt Cancer Center and those researchers interested in the ecology and evolution of cancer.

"Our approach has been to emphasize how evolutionary concepts permeate a wide variety of disciplines, but also to cultivate an opportunity for graduate students to interact with local high school students and to gain valuable leadership and teaching experience. At the same time, the high school students gain exposure to cutting-edge evolutionary concepts from a variety of perspectives," said Dr. Christina Richards, an associate professor and researcher at USF, and the chief organizer of Darwin Days.

The organizers also noted that public school science teachers benefit by participating in the teaching workshops to enhance their abilities and broaden their awareness. The general public is invited to attend all lectures, and they are held at different venues to further enable broad participation and dissemination.


References

Florida Department of Education. (2008). Florida Sunshine State Standards.

Fowler, S.R. & Meisels, G.G. (2010). Florida Teachers’ Attitudes about Teaching Evolution. American Biology Teacher, 72(2):96-99. doi:10.1525/abt.2010.72.2

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About CAS

The College of Arts and Sciences is the intellectual heart of the University of South Florida. We are a community of teachers and scholars united in the belief that broadly educated people are the basis of a just, free, and prosperous society. By focusing on the big questions facing all of humanity, we prepare students for successful, socially responsible personal and professional lives. By conducting innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship, we advance knowledge in ways that prepare us to address complex social and scientific problems and enhance the quality of life for people and communities.