Lisa Durkin, Los Lunas, on
"Teaching evolution in the high school classroom"


 Teaching Evolution in the High School Classroom

Employing the Tactics of Reason

It can be somewhat daunting to teach a controversial subject like evolution.

Evolution is a reasonable theory

o It explains the variety of life on our planet.

o It explains ordinary occurrences like dog breeds, and big corn cobs.

o Darwin made observations on bird beaks and explained them with Natural Selection.

o Most students don't know the theory or how reasonable it really is.

Some students are not very reasonable about evolution

o Greet their objections with a smile.

o Be the adult.

o Avoid sarcasm and a condescending tone.

o Allow the debate as long as it is productive.

o Answer their objections with facts, logic and reason.

Defusing the unreasonable situation

o You are teaching science curriculum

o You hope not to offend anyone

o Evolution is widely accepted and is supported by a preponderance of evidence.

o You are not teaching anyone's belief system

o Evolution is a required subject that will be tested by standardized assessments

There is a difference between Science and Theology:

Critical thinking
Moral Judgments
Problem solving
Formulating perspective

Both have important roles in peoples' lives

You do not teach theology here.

It has no place in science curriculum

Students who challenge you play an important role

o Students who want to debate are listening.

o Students who have made up their minds are listening as well.

o Many students have never heard the rebuttal to creationism or intelligent design.

o It is important that all students learn to apply their critical thinking skills.

Make a reasonable case

o Give reasonable feedback

o Know your stuff

o Avoid alienating anyone

o Agree to disagree

o Listen

o Help students to think the issue through

o You are not asking students to "believe" in evolution.

Some Common Unreasonable Arguments

o You believe your grandfather was a monkey? How Stupid…

o Evolution is ONLY a theory


o Formulated as a scientific explanation

o Based on facts

o Supported by a preponderance of evidence (including facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses)

o Widely accepted by the scientific community

Reasonable Theories

o First there are facts and they are eventually explained by a theory
o Not the other way around

One of the reasons that science has made so many advancements is that it does not rely on magic

o Magic + Science = Superstition

Reasonable Feedback

o Intelligent design is still a creator by another name

o Shooting down evolution does not make creationism or ID more valid.

Reasonable Assignment Ideas

o Value Analysis Assignment Ideas
- Presentation or paper

- Defend their opinion

- Must use only facts and logic

- Graded on use of facts and logic

o Fun Creative Assignments


o Snapshot of Geologic Time
- Students select time period

- Assume time travel is possible

- Create a travel package to their time period according to specified criteria

- Develop a power point presentation

- When in the audience they must evaluate other presentations and make bids on which they prefer.

Help your students to be problem solvers instead of problem makers

You are their leader.

Set the example.

Reason is a science teacher's friend.

Be the voice of reason!

 Return to WorkShop Hub  


This Workshop was Sponsored by