For several years the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island has celebrated Darwin Day on or around February 12 (Charles Darwin’s birthday). Last year’s Darwin Day/Stand Up For Science Day was our best yet. Dr. Victor Schuster gave a wonderful demonstration of the scientific method during his platform talk. He posed a situation that also included an ethical problem and he elicited audience participation in solving the dilemma. During his entire presentation, Dr. Schuster reminded us how we were employing the scientific method: Observing, identifying a problem, forming a hypothesis, and testing for consistency or reformulating the hypothesis. We enjoyed his presentation so much that we have invited him back to join us this year, when February 12 falls on Sunday, our regularly scheduled platform day.
What makes our annual celebration unique is that it is conducted as an intergenerational event sponsored by our Sunday morning secular children’s program called Kids In Deed (KID). Everyone at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island enjoys participating or watching other members engaged in the hands-on activities. One of our members, a biology professor and parent active in our children’s program, came up with activities that included dissecting owl pellets to identify what owls eat, extracting DNA from strawberries, and a game called “Predator/Prey B-I-N-G-O.”
As a longtime public elementary school teacher, I tried to find an activity that was appropriate and fun for younger kids. I found the “Survival of the Fittest” game online, written as a high school exploration, and rewrote it for children ages five to thirteen.
It surprises me that more secular children’s programs haven’t embraced Darwin Day, but as I search the Internet, it appears that only colleges and adult organizations have activities.
Here is a niche that our ethical societies and humanist organizations should fill. Children are inquisitive by nature, so science lends itself to countless hands-on learning activities for children of all ages. Parents should feel comfortable allowing their children to participate in these activities because it increases their academic skills and involvement in a variety of ways. However, most importantly, it’s fun for all involved.
I urge anyone to consider visiting our ethical society on this wonderful day or plan similar activities at humanist organizations in your area.
Sharon Stanley has an MA in education and a second MA in information science, and for over thirty years she’s worked as an elementary special education teacher in New York City. Her family has belonged to the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island since 1995.