Section 3: Programming

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Programming Requirements

In order to reach a large audience with programming, library sites are required to have a formal opening of the exhibition. They are also required to create a project consultation panel composed of community members of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The panels are meant to serve as advisors for developing local programs and publicity, and for organizing and conducting community discussions about evolution. The panels will ideally be composed of people from different religious, educational, humanities, civic, scientific and other community groups. The size of the consultation panels is flexible depending on community needs. In addition, members of the Broader Social Impacts Committee (BSIC) will help provide libraries with connections to local networks and groups interested in the science and religion dialogue.

Scientists from the Human Origins Program and members of the project's BSIC will develop program schedules at each library selected for the tour in early 2015. Programs are supported by the project grant from the John Templeton Foundation and will include the following:

1. A community conversation on the topic titled "What Does Human Evolution Mean to You? A Community Conversation," led by BSIC co-chairs Drs. Connie Bertka and Jim Miller.

The discomfort felt by many people about evolution, particularly at the point where science and religion converge, has resulted in a lack of opportunities for the public to reflect on findings in human origins research and how these discoveries relate to people's personal understanding of the world and their place in it. This program will offer that opportunity and address a popular misconception that there is an inherent conflict between science and religion in the area of human origins. The BSIC has developed the Primer on Science, Religion, Evolution, and Creationism, a document that promotes a respectful, welcoming, and insightful public conversation on a topic audiences often see as troubling or prefer to avoid. The primer may be found at:

2. Event for clergy and community leaders. If individual libraries are interested in specifically engaging religious leaders in their community on the topic of human evolution, the BSIC co-chairs will coordinate a focused event for clergy and community leaders to explore the exhibit with Human Origins Program scientific and education staff and BSIC members. The agenda for discussion following the tour will be coordinated with input from the local project consultation panel. Ideally one or two local, respected clergy and community leaders will work with the BSIC co-chairs to invite their local colleagues to this event. (This event is optional for libraries.)

3. Educator workshop. Dr. Briana Pobiner, who leads the Human Origins Program's education and outreach efforts, and Dr. Rick Potts, the exhibition curator and director of the NMNH Human Origins Program, will present a 2-4 hour daytime or evening workshop on human evolution for science educators in each community hosting the exhibition. The workshop is for classroom teachers; science, nature center, and museum educators; homeschoolers; and other local educators. It will feature exploration and hands-on practice in presenting the Human Origins Program resources provided for each community. These resources include a set of five early human skull casts; classroom-tested, high-school Biology teaching supplements on "What Does It Mean to Be Human?", and a teacher resource on cultural and religious sensitivity strategies. Depending on the size of the community, project sponsors would like to have from five to 20 teachers attend this workshop.

4. Evening science program. In consultation with each library's program developers and community panel, Dr. Rick Potts or Dr. Briana Pobiner will give a lecture for the general public about the latest research in human evolution and an overview of exhibition themes and messages. This program will ideally also involve another scientist speaker from the local area, and would very likely be held on or close to the opening day of the exhibition.

Other programs

In addition to the programs presented by NMNH and BSIC staff, libraries should present at least one public program during each of the other weeks of the exhibition. The consultation panel should also serve as advisors for these programs. Programs may be lectures by experts in this area, panel discussions, book discussions (a list of recommended books will be provided), readings, performances, and other formats.

Collaborations with schools including universities and community colleges, science centers, and museums in presenting programs are recommended. Presenting a free program at a different public venue to help draw different audiences is encouraged. Libraries are also encouraged to work with local experts in the science of human origins, religious studies, ethics, philosophy, and the arts and humanities in developing these programs.

The project funder and organizers would like libraries to engage with schools in presenting the exhibition to the community. Visits to the exhibition by school groups are strongly encouraged.

Additional Programming Ideas

  • Host an exhibit “teaser” event before the exhibit arrives to generate interest—possible events include lectures, films, or readings related to exhibit themes.

  • Create displays or related exhibits of books, artwork, or other display items about exhibit-related topics.

  • Host a book discussion or other program focused on the book What Does it Mean to Be Human? The traveling exhibition is complemented by this companion volume written by exhibit curator Rick Potts and Chris Sloan. The book amplifies and clarifies many aspects of the original exhibition hall and expands the experience for the visitor. Consider using this book to deepen discussion about the content of the exhibition. Dr. Potts will bring a copy of the book to each site to keep and make available with the exhibition.
  • Work with your project team to develop exhibition-related theme-of-the-week activities for adults.
  • Create a public forum for discussion by making space available for written exhibition feedback. For example, pose a question to site visitors and make a bulletin board/wall space available for public feedback and comments, or encourage visitors to contribute their comments in an exhibit guestbook.
  • Host a community conversation to gather insights and answers to the question: “What does it mean to be human?” Invite a moderator to facilitate a “kitchen-table conversation” where participants will be able to discuss and listen to various viewpoints.
  • Host a poetry reading with the theme “What does it mean to be human?”
  • A program focused on human variation – are we so different? Despite the variety of people in the world, humans are one species – with a far longer prehistory compared to the time in which human differences have arisen. Host a community dialogue that considers the similarities and shared history of all humanity in light of the ethnic and geographic diversity represented in your community.
  • Host a program focused the relationships between scientific and religious perspectives on human evolution. Some ideas could include a program or panel discussion on humanity’s role in Earth’s future from scientific and religious perspectives; a program or panel discussion connecting faith, human evolution, environmental ethics, and philosophy; or a program or panel discussion Native American perspectives on humanity’s relationship to the Earth.

  • Host a program about human evolution and environmental change. Include a discussion of how early humans responded to the challenges presented by changing climates, and how humans might evolve to cope with future environmental change.
  • Host a program to share and discuss creation stories from around the world.
  • Host a panel discussion about human evolution education in the United States.
  • Partner with local scientists in your community. They could present science demonstrations or contribute to a webinar, or set-up an online discussion of the Exploring Human Origins through the library’s website, moderated by a local scholar. You could invite local experts to discuss the early inhabitants of your library’s region and make connections to exhibition themes.
  • Host a videoconference with a local or national science center, focused on exhibit-related content.

  • Sponsor a One Book, One Community program during the exhibit using a popular text related to exhibit themes, such as Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. Consider creating a series of book discussions, led by a scientist.
  • Host a program on the scientific exhibit themes that connect to other aspects of people’s lives. Some examples could be a program that traces human evolution through art and music; a program about the evolution of language; a program about brain evolution; or a program about what our human ancestors ate and the role of food in human evolution.

  • Host a program about genetics. Some examples could be a program about genetic mutations and their role in the evolutionary process, or a program about love and DNA – did human evolution shape your taste in a mate?
  • Host a program about how scientists use their knowledge of evolution to solve modern problems in the fields of health, agriculture, and ecology. One example could be a program about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance and the evolution of infectious diseases.
  • Host a program about the effects of technology on the evolution of human bodies.

Programming Ideas for Younger Audiences

Pre-school/elementary school:

  • Provide opportunities for young children to explore nature on library grounds. Just as Darwin’s observations from his journey helped him to develop the theory of natural selection, help children to practice their observation skills. For example, a reading of a counting book about ladybugs for pre-school-aged children could be followed up with a walk around the library to search for and observe living insects.
  • Hold story time sessions for children using books about human evolution (see book list for younger readers for ideas).

Middle/high school:

  • Partner with a science center to learn about how many aspects of human anatomy and physiology are shared with other animals on Earth. For example, invite zoo education staff to show, via bones, that a giraffe’s remarkable neck contains only seven vertebrae, identical to the number of human neck bones.

  • Partner with area school’s art classes to create pieces on the theme “What does it mean to be human?” and display them in the teen section of the library.

  • Partner with an art museum to do a program with children that involves masks, shells, or other artifacts that connect to human evolution.
  • Plan a human evolution-related project for a science fair.
  • Plan a program inviting young people to work with a scientist on a hands-on science activity connected to exhibition themes.
  • Host a hands-on science learning opportunity (such as extracting human DNA from cheek cells), and follow-up with a discussion of what DNA tells us about being human.
  • Plan a program showing students how to use evidence to form hypotheses and examine how evidence can be used to support more than one hypothesis.
  • Invite young people to create a multimedia presentation for the library about human evolution.
  • Enlist a Teen Advisory Board to help plan and promote Exploring Human Origins programs for young adults.
  • Allow youth to curate an exhibit related to Exploring Human Origins.
  • Role play for teens: after learning about the Scopes Trial, invites teens to determine whether or not John Scopes would be found guilty of teaching evolution as if it took place today.

  • Host an essay contest: challenge students to write an essay focused on “What does it mean to be human?
  • Include a title for young people in an Exploring Human Origins “One Book, One Community” series.
  • Interview a scientist connected to the programming or exhibition development for the Exploring Human Origins exhibition. Write a career profile for the school newspaper.

Additional Fundraising Information

Past library participants have reported receiving funding for programmatic activities from the following:

Nonprofit sources:

  • Friends of the Library
  • Science/History professional organizations
  • University departments
  • Local science groups
  • State humanities councils
  • State and local arts councils
  • University administration (lecture series funds, events planning and coordination committees, dean of faculty, sports department, history department, African American studies department, humanities division, president’s/provost’s/chancellor’s funds)
  • Community college cultural advisory board, educational foundation, contracts and grants department
  • Local/regional/state family foundations
  • County historical societies
  • The Links, Inc. (organization of African-American women)
  • Centers for the Book
  • Women’s business organizations such as Zonta

For profit sources:

  • Credit unions
  • Computer networks and computer stores
  • Target and other department stores
  • Banks
  • Auto dealerships
  • Supermarkets
  • Hardware stores
  • Newspapers
  • Utility companies

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