Tag Archives: evolution

For Darwin Day, Resources to Communicate the Concepts of Evolution

The ideas of Charles Darwin and the concept of evolution by natural selection continue to have a profound influence on modern biology – they permeate almost every area of scientific exploration. The Academies have long been involved in educational activities and publications on many aspects of evolution. As we celebrate Darwin Day, visit our list of reports below that can help communicate the concepts of evolution.

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other …


Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda

Science and technology are embedded in virtually every aspect of modern life. As a result, people face an increasing need to integrate information from science with their personal values and other considerations as they make important life …


Thinking Evolutionarily: Evolution Education Across the Life Sciences: Summary of a Convocation

Evolution is the central unifying theme of biology. Yet today, more than a century and a half after Charles Darwin proposed the idea of evolution through natural selection, the topic is often relegated to a handful of chapters in textbooks and a …


A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas

Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life and hold the key to solving many of humanity’s most pressing current and future challenges. The United States’ position in the global economy is declining, in part …


Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science

Today many school students are shielded from one of the most important concepts in modern science: evolution. In engaging and conversational style, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science provides a well-structured framework …


Evolution in Hawaii: A Supplement to ‘Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science’

As both individuals and societies, we are making decisions today that will have profound consequences for future generations. From preserving Earth’s plants and animals to altering our use of fossil fuels, none of these decisions can be made …


Take 5: Top Books on Life Sciences

Got scientists and engineers on your holiday shopping list? Take five and check out our top gift ideas. NAP books and merchandise make thoughtful gifts for thinking people.

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition

A respected resource for decades, the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals has been updated by a committee of experts, taking into consideration input from the scientific and laboratory animal communities and the public at large. The…

Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI's Investigation of the 2001 Anthrax Letters

Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI’s Investigation of the 2001 Anthrax Letters

Less than a month after the September 11, 2001 attacks, letters containing spores of anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis, or B. anthracis) were sent through the U.S. mail. Between October 4 and November 20, 2001, 22 individuals developed anthrax; 5 of the…

Science, Evolution, and Creationism
Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with…

A New Biology for the 21st Century

A New Biology for the 21st Century

Now more than ever, biology has the potential to contribute practical solutions to many of the major challenges confronting the United States and the world. A New Biology for the 21st Century recommends that a “New Biology” approach–one that depends…

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward

Scores of talented and dedicated people serve the forensic science community, performing vitally important work. However, they are often constrained by lack of adequate resources, sound policies, and national support. It is clear that change and advancements,…

The Nation’s Science Report Card: Perspectives from the Board on Science Education

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress 2009 Science Report Card released last Tuesday, the United States received an overall grade of “needs improvement.” The test, which measures science proficiency, was administered to 4th, 8th, and 12th graders and underscores one of the major focal points of President Obama’s State of the Union address: the need to improve science education in the United States. Four in ten 12th grade students did not perform even at a basic level of science understanding, and only about a fifth were judged to be proficient in science, with just 1% performing at an advanced level. Furthermore, there is still a strong gap in the achievement of students based on ethnicity, educational attainment of parents and caregivers, and family income. The National Research Council’s Board on Science Education has produced a number of reports that discuss research and provide practical guidance to improve science education. We asked Tom Keller, Senior Program Officer with the board, for his thoughts.

“There has not been such momentum in science education in this country since the 1960s, and in contrast to the times when the nation responded to the Sputnik shock, we now know much more about effective science learning and teaching. Foundational work has been and is underway in the National Academies’ Board on Science Education (BOSE) that summarizes the enormous progress we have made through learning and education research over the last 20 years. BOSE published two seminal studies and their derivative products in two major areas of science learning: K-8 in schools, and the whole area of out-of-school or informal science learning. The report on learning science in K-8 classrooms, Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8, and the associated practitioner volume Ready, Set SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms have become important resources for classroom-based science teaching. The two reports on learning science in informal environments, Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits, and its practitioner volume Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments are beginning to influence how museums, science centers, zoos and aquariums, and other institutions of informal learning think about their products for their public. Taking Science to School cites the research evidence and builds the case for the teaching and learning of more rigorous content than has been the usual. And proficiency has been defined as encompassing four strands of scientific proficiency – understanding scientific explanations, generating scientific evidence, reflecting on scientific knowledge and participating productively in science. Science is not just a body of facts; it is what you know, how you use that knowledge and how that knowledge helps you understand the world. The reports on informal learning expanded on these four strands of science proficiency by acknowledging more specifically the role of interest and motivation, and by addressing the crucial role of identity as a science learner.

“A number of factors are converging, leading to an unprecedented effort in science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Just recently, the Carnegie Corporation and the Institute for Advanced Studies released the Opportunity Equation, which lays out a framework for aligning the entire science education enterprise. The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association led the creation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in English language arts and mathematics. The president initiated the Race to the Top education reform efforts, Educate to Innovate, and Change the Equation. The President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology and the National Science Board each put forth their reports on K-12 science education. The National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council is currently finalizing a framework for next generation science standards and is working in a unique partnership with AAAS, NSTA, and Achieve on the framework and standards.”

National Research Council publications can certainly inform discussions and promote science education to move us from a “needs improvement” category to “clearly outstanding,” though it will take effort throughout the entire education system to get us there.

Taking Science to School

Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8

What is science for a child? How do children learn about science and how to do science? Drawing on a vast array of work from neuroscience to classroom observation, Taking Science to School provides a comprehensive picture of what we know about…


Ready, Set, SCIENCE!

Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms

What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to…


Learning Science in Informal Environments

Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits

Informal science is a burgeoning field that operates across a broad range of venues and envisages learning outcomes for individuals, schools, families, and society. The evidence base that describes informal science, its promise, and effects is informed by a…


Surrounded by Science

Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments

Practitioners in informal science settings–museums, after-school programs, science and technology centers, media enterprises, libraries, aquariums, zoos, and botanical gardens–are interested in finding out what learning looks like, how to measure it, and…


Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations

Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations

At a time when scientific and technological competence is vital to the nation’s future, the weak performance of U.S. students in science reflects the uneven quality of current science education.  Although young children come to school with innate…


Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st Century Skills

Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st Century Skills: A Workshop Summary

An emerging body of research suggests that a set of broad “21st century skills”–such as adaptability, complex communication skills, and the ability to solve non-routine problems–are valuable across a wide range of jobs in the national economy. However, the…


Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8

Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California: Summary of a Convocation

K-8 science education in California (as in many other parts of the country) is in a state of crisis. K-8 students in California spend too little time studying science, many of their teachers are not well prepared in the subject, and the support system for…


Engineering in K-12 Education

Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects

Engineering education in K-12 classrooms is a small but growing phenomenon that may have implications for engineering and also for the other “STEM” subjects–science, technology, and mathematics. Specifically, engineering education may improve student…


Science, Evolution, and Creationism

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with…


America's Lab Report

America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science

Laboratory experiences as a part of most U.S. high science curricula have
been taken for granted for decades, but they have rarely been carefully
examined. What do they contribute to science learning? What can they
contribute to science learning? What is the…


How Students Learn

How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom

How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom builds on the discoveries detailed in the best-selling How People Learn. Now these findings are presented in a way that teachers can use immediately, to revitalize their work in the classroom for even…


How People Learn

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition

This popular trade book, originally released in hardcover in the Spring of 1999, has been newly expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original book can translate into actions and practice, now making a real connection between classroom…


The Five Most Shared Books On NAP.edu

buzz_this_screenshotYou may have noticed that there’s a new button in the group of sharing features at the top of each book page: a link to allow you to share a book on Google Buzz and/or Google Reader (you can follow NAP on Google Buzz, too). It’s one more option to make it even easier to share a book’s catalog page, the free online version of a book (which we call “open books”) or any of the single pages of an open book.

Since we have sharing on the mind, we thought this would be a good time to show you the top five most shared books on nap.edu since we put in the sharing tools this time last year. Here they are, in order of popularity:

See the most popular books

Francisco J. Ayala Awarded 2010 Templeton Prize

ayalaWe congratulate National Academy of Sciences member Francisco J. Ayala for winning the 2010 Templeton Prize. Dr. Ayala is an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist who has vigorously opposed the entanglement of science and religion while also calling for mutual respect between the two. The Prize, announced at a news conference at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.

In nominating Ayala for the Prize, Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, recounted the broad influence of Ayala’s scientific teaching and writings, including more than 1,000 papers and 35 books, adding, “A pervasive message of several of these publications is that science is a way of knowing, but it is not the only way. The significance and purpose of the world and human life, as well as matters concerning moral or religious values, transcend science.”

Ayala was asked by the National Academy of Sciences to serve as committee chair of a landmark booklet updated several times called Science, Evolution, and Creationism. He also wrote Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press), a broad review of the proper context of science and religion in modern society.

For more information, read the press release here.

Featured Publications

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable.

In the book Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a group of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine explain the fundamental methods of science, document the overwhelming evidence in support of biological evolution, and evaluate the alternative perspectives offered by advocates of various kinds of creationism, including “intelligent design.” The book explores the many fascinating inquiries being pursued that put the science of evolution to work in preventing and treating human disease, developing new agricultural products, and fostering industrial innovations. The book also presents the scientific and legal reasons for not teaching creationist ideas in public school science classes.

Mindful of school board battles and recent court decisions, Science, Evolution, and Creationism shows that science and religion should be viewed as different ways of understanding the world rather than as frameworks that are in conflict with each other and that the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. For educators, students, teachers, community leaders, legislators, policy makers, and parents who seek to understand the basis of evolutionary science, this publication will be an essential resource.

Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion (Joseph Henry Press)

Darwin's Gift to Science and ReligionWith the publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation for nature’s diversity. This was to be his gift to science and society at last, we had an explanation for how life came to be on Earth.

Scientists agree that the evolutionary origin of animals and plants is a scientific conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. They place it beside such established concepts as the roundness of the earth, its revolution around the sun, and the molecular composition of matter. That evolution has occurred, in other words, is a fact.

Yet as we approach the bicentennial celebration of Darwin’s birth, the world finds itself divided over the truth of evolutionary theory. Consistently endorsed as good science by experts and overwhelmingly accepted as fact by the scientific community, it is not always accepted by the public and our schools continue to be battlegrounds for this conflict. From the Tennessee trial of a biology teacher who dared to teach Darwin’s theory to his students in 1925 to Tammy Kitzmiller’s 2005 battle to keep intelligent design out of the Dover district schools in Pennsylvania, it’s clear that we need to cut through the propaganda to quell the cacophony of raging debate.

With the publication of Darwin’s Gift, a voice at once fresh and familiar brings a rational, measured perspective to the science of evolution. An acclaimed evolutionary biologist with a background in theology, Francisco Ayala offers clear explanations of the science, reviews the history that led us to ratify Darwin’s theories, and ultimately provides a clear path for a confused and conflicted public.

New Books: Health, Water Management, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and more

It’s Monday, so we’re doing our usual roundup of the publications that were new to the nap.edu catalog in the last week. As with many of our publications, all of the new publications this week have PDFs available to download for free.

Featured Publication

Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Methods to Support International Climate Agreements (prepublication)

The world’s nations are moving toward agreements that will bind us together in an effort to limit future greenhouse gas emissions. With such agreements will come the need for all nations to make accurate estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and to monitor changes over time. In this context, the present book focuses on the greenhouse gases that result from human activities, have long lifetimes in the atmosphere and thus will change global climate for decades to millennia or more, and are currently included in international agreements. The book devotes considerably more space to CO2 than to the other gases because CO2 is the largest single contributor to global climate change and is thus the focus of many mitigation efforts. Only data in the public domain were considered because public access and transparency are necessary to build trust in a climate treaty.

The book concludes that each country could estimate fossil-fuel CO2 emissions accurately enough to support monitoring of a climate treaty. However, current methods are not sufficiently accurate to check these self-reported estimates against independent data or to estimate other greenhouse gas emissions. Strategic investments would, within 5 years, improve reporting of emissions by countries and yield a useful capability for independent verification of greenhouse gas emissions reported by countries.

All New Publications This Week

Informing the Future: Critical Issues in Health, Fifth Edition (final)

A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California’s Bay Delta (prepublication)

Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Selected Airborne Chemicals: Volume 8 (final)

Medical Surge Capacity: Workshop Summary (final)

Ecosystem Concepts for Sustainable Bivalve Mariculture (final)

The Rise of Games and High Performance Computing for Modeling and Simulation (final)

Understanding Climate’s Influence on Human Evolution (final)

Review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft IRIS Assessment of Tetrachloroethylene (final)

New books this week: Climate’s Influence on Human Evolution and more

Featured Publication

Understanding Climate’s Influence on Human Evolution (prepublication)

The hominin fossil record documents a history of critical evolutionary events that have ultimately shaped and defined what it means to be human, including the origins of bipedalism; the emergence of our genus Homo; the first use of stone tools; increases in brain size; and the emergence of Homo sapiens, tools, and culture. The geological record suggests that some of these evolutionary events were coincident with substantial changes in African and Eurasian climate, raising the intriguing possibility that key junctures in human evolution and behavioral development may have been affected or controlled by the environmental characteristics of the areas where hominins evolved. However, with both a sparse hominin fossil record and an incomplete understanding of past climates, the particular effect of the environment on hominin evolution remains speculative. This presents an opportunity for exciting and fundamental scientific research to improve our understanding of how climate may have helped to shape our species, and thereby to shed light on the evolutionary forces that made us distinctively human.

All New Publications This Week

Promoting Chemical Laboratory Safety and Security in Developing Countries (prepublication)

Evaluation of the Health and Safety Risks of the New USAMRIID High Containment Facilities at Fort Detrick, Maryland (prepublication)

NOAA’s Education Program: Review and Critique (prepublication)

Seventeenth Interim Report of the Committee on Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (final)

Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments (final)

Electricity from Renewable Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments (final)

New This Week: NASA, Evolution, Childhood Obesity

New this week we have two publications on the prevention of childhood obesity, continuing education in the health professions, humane issues in the use of random source dogs and cats in research, and one of the books from the In The Light Of Evolution series.

Featured New Publication

Mitigating the Nutritional Impacts of the Global Food Price Crisis: Workshop Summary (prepublication)

In 2007 and 2008, the world witnessed a dramatic increase in food prices. The global financial crisis that began in 2008 compounded the burden of high food prices, exacerbating the problems of hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. The tandem food price and economic crises struck amidst the massive, chronic problem of hunger and undernutrition in developing countries. National governments and international actors have taken a variety of steps to mitigate the negative effects of increased food prices on particular groups. The recent abrupt increase in food prices, in tandem with the current global economic crisis, threatens progress already made in these areas, and could inhibit future efforts.

The Institute of Medicine held a workshop, summarized in this volume, to describe the dynamic technological, agricultural, and economic issues contributing to the food price increases of 2007 and 2008 and their impacts on health and nutrition in resource-poor regions. The compounding effects of the current global economic downturn on nutrition motivated additional discussions on these dual crises, their impacts on the nutritional status of vulnerable populations, and opportunities to mitigate their negative nutritional effects.

All New Publications

Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions (prepublication)

An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions (prepublication)

A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) (prepublication)

Benefit-Cost Analysis for Early Childhood Interventions: Workshop Summary (final)

In the Light of Evolution III: Two Centuries of Darwin (final)

Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research (final)

Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data: Standardization for Health Care Quality Improvement (final)

A Review of the NIOSH Roadmap for Research on Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles (final)

Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention in Children: Workshop Summaries (final)

Childhood Obesity Prevention in Texas: Workshop Summary (final)