“The Tales Teeth Tell Us” and other highlights from the 2022 NABT conference

NCSE staff and affiliated teachers led professional development addressing misconceptions in the nature of science, evolution, and climate change at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 10–13, 2022.

Evolution Symposium

This year’s marquee event was the Evolution Symposium, coordinated and sponsored by NCSE. The symposium, titled The Tales Teeth Tell Us: Decoding the Ancient Lives of Mammals, featured a talk by Larisa DeSantis, a vertebrate paleontologist at Vanderbilt University, and a session facilitated by NCSE Teacher Ambassador Jennifer Broo and NCSE Director of Teacher Support Lin Andrews.

DeSantis, who leads the DREAM Lab at Vanderbilt University, uses paleontology to investigate how mammalian communities have evolved over time in response to climate change throughout the world. DeSantis’s talk featured information about how modern methods can give us a better understanding of the dietary behavior of dire wolves, American lions, and sabertooth cats, and also why these animals went extinct. She also spoke about the evolution of marsupial predators. Understanding how these organisms lived and died can help us to better conserve extant predator species.

Following DeSantis, Broo and Andrews shared the lesson set Broo developed for NCSE: Good is Good Enough? This lesson set uses a technique called NGSS storylining to share the evolutionary history of the horse with students, using the variation between modern and extinct species of horses as an anchoring phenomenon. Attendees had the opportunity to experience several of the activities firsthand. They used replicas of fossilized horse teeth and engaged in techniques used by scientists to gather and visualize data, then drew conclusions, to get an understanding of how the lesson set allows for students to see that populations, not individuals, change over time.

Other Sessions

In addition to the Evolution Symposium, NCSE staff and teachers held several other sessions throughout the weekend.

NCSE Director Lin Andrews, NCSE Teacher Ambassador Tom Freeman, and Curriculum Field Tester Dawn Fuelberth conducted a well-attended session titled Science Can Make You Strong! based on a Nature of Science lesson set of the same name. Attendees worked through hands-on activities meant to help students distinguish between valid, evidence-based science, and unintentional or misleading information. Fuelberth spoke about how she has used the lesson set in her classroom and included tips and tricks for successful implementation. Teachers walked away with strategies to inoculate their students against pseudoscience

NCSE Curriculum Specialist Cari Herndon and NCSE Teacher Ambassador Jeremy Cook presented the NCSE lesson set Back to the Future: Climate Edition. Herndon and Cook highlighted the different ways the lesson set’s activities dispelled climate misconceptions. Then participants completed a simulated ice core activity in which they gathered data and built a graph depicting how global atmospheric temperatures have changed over time.

NABT Evolution Award

NCSE, along with BSCS Science Learning, sponsored this year’s NABT Evolution Award. This year’s recipient, Armin Moczek, an evolutionary developmental biology professor from Indiana University, received this award for his many K–12 evolution initiatives and public outreach seminars. Moczek and his collaborator, Kristin Milks, were an integral part of the development of the NCSE lesson set No More Monkeying Around. Director of Teacher Support Lin Andrews was honored to present his award to him in person at the ceremony.

NCSE is committed to the continuing education of all science teachers, and participating in events such as the NABT national conference is a key part of that equation. There is no better place to reach new and veteran teachers and support them in their efforts to use data-driven curricula to teach evolution, climate change, and the nature of science effectively. If you’d like to support NCSE’s efforts, please donate today!

NCSE Curriculum Specialist Cari Herndon
Short Bio

Cari Herndon is a Curriculum Specialist with NCSE's Supporting Teachers program.

herndon@ncse.ngo