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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
are different. This publication is designed to help ensure that students receive an education in the sciences that reflects this distinction.
The book is divided into seven chapters and five appendices, plus three interspersed "dialogues" in which several fictional teachers discuss the implications of the ideas discussed in the book.
Chapter 1, "Why Teach Evolution," introduces the basic concepts of evolutionary theory and provides scientific definitions of several common terms, such as "theory" and "fact," used throughout the book.
The first dialogue, "The Challenge to Teachers," follows the conversation of three teachers as they discuss some of the problems that can arise in teaching evolution and the nature of science.
Chapter 2, "Major Themes in Evolution," provides a general overview of evolutionary processes, describes the evidence supporting evolution, and shows how evolutionary theory is related to other areas of biology.
The second dialogue, "Teaching About the Nature of Science," follows the three teachers as they engage in a teaching exercise designed to demonstrate several prominent features of science.
Chapter 3, "Evolution and the Nature of Science," uses several scientific theories, including evolution, to highlight important characteristics of scientific endeavors.
The third dialogue, "Teaching Evolution Through Inquiry," presents a teacher using an exercise designed to interest and educate her students in fossils and the mechanisms of evolution.
Chapter 4, "Evolution and the National Science Education Standards ," begins by describing the recent efforts to specify what students should know and be able to do as a result of their education in the sciences. It then reproduces sections from the 1996 National Science Education Standards released by the National Research Council that relate to biological evolution and the nature and history of science.
Chapter 5, "Frequently Asked Questions About Evolution and the Nature of Science," gives short answers to some of the questions asked most frequently by students, parents, educators, and others.
Chapter 6, "Activities for Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science," provides eight sample activities that teachers can use to develop students' understanding of evolution and scientific inquiry.
Chapter 7, "Selecting Instructional Materials," lays out criteria that can be used to evaluate school science programs and the content and design of instructional materials.
The appendices summarize significant court decisions regarding evolution and creationism issues, reproduce statements from a number of organizations regarding the teaching of evolution, provide references for further reading and other resources, and conclude with a list of reviewers.
Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science was produced by the Working Group on Teaching Evolution under the Council of the National Academy of Sciences. The Working Group consists of 13 scientists and educators who have been extensively involved in research and education on evolution and related scientific subjects. The group worked closely with teachers, school administrators, state officials, and others in preparing this publication, soliciting suggestions for what would be most useful, and responding to comments on draft materials. We welcome additional input and guidance from readers that we can incorporate into future versions of this publication. Please visit our World Wide Web site at www4.nas.edu/opus/evolve.nsf for additional information.
Thomas Jefferson, To George Wythe, "Crusade Against Ignorance" in Thomas Jefferson on Education, ed. Gordon C. Lee. 1961. New York: Teachers College Press, pp. 99-100.
National Science Board. 1996. Science and Engineering Indicators —1996. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Gallup Poll, News Release, May 24, 1996.
In the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the 1982 decision of a federal district court that the teaching of "creation science" in public schools violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
National Academy of Sciences. (in press). Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. (See www.nap.edu)