VSHA Master r1 150X75  September 15, 2013

by Barrie Webster


This morning’s meeting at the Cedar Hill Rec Centre featured the first of this fall’s speakers, Dr. Eileen Van Der Flier-Keller of the University of Victoria School of Earth & Ocean Sciences.  She is an expert on imparting the science of evolution to children.  We have Al Wiseley to thank for finding Dr. Van Der Flier-Keller; she is part of the steering committee for the VSHA Swan Lake project, A Walk Through Time.

Dr. Van Der Flier-Keller was born in Dublin, Ireland, and, following her schooling and undergraduate education there, she came to the University of Western Ontario for her PhD.  She is now an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria where her research interests focus on the geochemistry of marine sediments and plate tectonics.  She also has an interest in public awareness of science and earth science education in Canadian schools.  Her title this morning was “Teaching Children about Evolution” and it was, as promised, a hands-on presentation.

The presentation began with a clock-face view of the Earth’s 4.6 billion-year history on which the Pre-Cambrian era took up about 75% of the space.  There followed the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras which took up the rest of the clock face except for the tiny segment between 11:59:59 and 12:00:00. Eileen then unrolled a linear representation of the same time period on the floor showing the significant events that mark the arrival of cells without nuclei, cells with nuclei, and the whole spectrum of life from trilobites through dinosaurs to the emergence of Homo sapiens (a very thin pencil line at the end of the 20-foot roll of construction paper with photos and diagrams of the fossils and life forms at each stage.  The important thing to appreciate was the enormous amount of time it took for life to develop and then to develop the dominant species, humans, we have today.  She then proceeded to present us with a number of items, some fossils and some not, so that we could understand how fossils are formed and the fact that they are very old.

The challenge of imparting an appreciation of the enormous time scale involved in evolutionary processes stimulates Dr. Van Der Flier-Keller’s dedication to interacting with teachers-in-training to ensure that they understand this fascinating field of science.  She also shows them concrete material of the sort that can be used in classroom lessons.

The discussion that followed was particularly interesting in that we dealt with the sorts of questions that often come up when pupils and others with creationist views are presented with the geological facts.

Those who were not at this morning’s talk missed an engaging presentation by an excellent lecturer.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a podcast to send you to on our new website.  The only solution is to come out and hear the speakers we have arranged for you.  Here are the next ones for the fall term.  Put them into your calendar now.  Remember, the new time is 10:00 AM at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, Cedar Hill Road and Finlayson.  Coffee is now provided.