learner already knows. And in many situations, the learner already thinks that she or he knows that evolution is evil and that you’re going to go to hell in a hand basket if you believe in it.”
Debra Felix from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute agreed that “by college, it’s far too late.” Children need to start learning important concepts even before they enter school. “Three- and four-year-olds are extremely curious and extremely capable, and we waste those years by not trying to teach them some of these things.” In part, this means reaching out to parents.
Allen Rodrigo, the director of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent, which is described in Chapter 6), discussed some of the many audiences that NESCent is trying to reach. It has a program in evolutionary medicine, a K-12 outreach initiative for minorities who are underrepresented in science, a Darwin Day program, a road show that goes to rural communities, and an ambassador program that extends overseas. “These are constituencies that we feel are important, but we’ve developed this with an almost intuitive gut instinct that these things are going to be important.” As Ross Nehm’s argued (see Chapter 4), an important question is how to measure the effects of these programs and any trickle-down effects they have on other groups, Rodrigo observed.
Other important target audiences are parent-teacher associations, boards of education, park rangers, and boy and girl scouts troops. Particularly influential groups include advertisers, public relations firms, entertainers, and game designers. For example, the National Academy of Sciences has an office in Los Angeles called the Science and Entertainment Exchange1 that works with entertainment industry professionals in Hollywood to help them better understand science in the context of television shows and movies.
Rodrigo noted that journalists are another important audience. Sessions for editors, producers, and reporters could introduce them to the issues and show them how omnipresent and important evolution is in everyday life. A more diverse audience is the group of people who use social networking. The conversations occurring over these networks could be leveraged to have a broad impact. Blogs, short films on YouTube, science cafes, and other forms of new media, and especially social media could all be used more effectively to convey information about evolution.
An important model for outreach and communication is the work done by Michael Zimmerman, who has been convening the Clergy Letter