Class Discussion on Evolution

PART 1: Preparation

Before you start this activity, review with your group the following ideas as they related to evolution. Write a short desciption of each idea on a notecard to refer to periodically during this discussion project.

PART 2: The Situation

Introduction: The school board is faced with a decision regarding the school's science curriculum. A group of community members called "Concerned Parents" is asking the board to eliminate evolution from the high school curriculum because they feel it undermines their religious beliefs. Your job is to play the role of the School Board and respond to the concerned parents group regarding the issues surrounding evolution, "creation science" and the high school curriculum.

Review the law regarding the teaching of creationism or intelligent design. Use google or other resources to determine if it is legal to teach creationism within a school system or whether it violates the constitution (separation of church and state).

Submit your position as the Board of Education regarding the teaching of creation science in the classroom. This should be a short (1 page) position paper. Clearly state your position on the subject of creationism being taught in the science classroom.

At this point, check with your instructor on how the final discussion will be presented. Discussion can be done in class, with a panel or in small groups. Alternately, a discussion board may be set up online for you to contribute to.

Grades are based on the thoroughness of the discussion, responses to others within the class and internet etiquette.

Position Paper Rubric 1 2 3
Position: stated and included it in the appropriate place in the paper, was thoroughly supported throughout the paper.      
Reasoning: well developed and thought out reasons. Reasons show strong analysis and conclusions based on the information.      
Depth: Position is supported in depth with a variety of sources. Substantial valid and accurate information in the form of expert opinion, statistics, research studies, etc. has been used       
Organization: Ideas are well organized and free of mechanical errors, transitions connect ideas      

PART 3: The Discussion

The following list of questions was asked at a public board meeting by concerned parents. Your job is to answer the questions as a group in a clear and coherent manner, use resources to formulate your response and remember your group's original position. Your answers should stay within the realm of the law. Your teacher may assign your group 1-2 topic questions to discuss from the following list.

1. Isn't evolution just a theory? Shouldn't children be exposed to all the theories, including the theory that God created the universe and the animals, and then be allowed to choose for themselves?

2. Should students be allowed to be exempt from this unit and have an alternate assignment instead?

3. Should teachers be allowed to choose to not teach evolution if they have religious objections? Could they choose to teach creation science instead?

4. Most states have standards regarding the teaching of science topics. Is evolution an important standard for states to have in the curriculum. What should happen to schools that do not follow the standards?

5. Why do textbooks make no mention of intelligent design or creationism. Can the school adopt a science textbook that covers this? Do these textbooks exist and would it be breaking the law to adopt a creationist textbook within a school district.

6. How should teachers approach the topic of evolution while being sensitive to students' beliefs. How can teachers avoid confrontation or anxiety about the subject?

7. Why does biology have to include evolution at all? Can students learn about animals without talking about evolution? Would it be possible to teach evolution only as it relates to animals and not humans?

8. Evolution is also called the "unifying theory of biology". What does this mean? Why do biologists find it nearly impossible to understand biology without understanding evolution.

Other Resources on Evolution

Evolution: Fact, Fiction, or Opinion - students explore misconceptions about the theory of evolution

Speciation on Daphne Major (Big Birds Get No Love) - data analysis showing how the size of finch beaks changes as a result of a drought

Video on the Dover Intelligent Design Trial