THE TREE ROOM: A NEW ONLINE RESOURCE FOR TEACHING EVOLUTIONARY RELATIONSHIPS
The Tree Room (treeroom.org), a new component of UC Berkeley’s renowned Understanding Evolution website (evolution.berkeley.edu), contains resources both for teachers in K-12 education and for exhibition designers at informal science education venues such as museums, nature centers, zoos, and aquariums. The Tree Room demystifies evolutionary trees by providing friendly, accessible information on how to interpret trees, how they are built, and their applications relevant to society. The site also includes: 1), clarifications of common misconceptions about trees documented in the education research literature; 2) ideas for easily incorporating tree thinking exercises into curricula; 3), a searchable database of vetted lessons and tools for teaching about trees; and 4), a “field guide to evolutionary trees,” an interactive tool to help educators and students understand and interpret disparate tree diagrams.
Development of the Tree Room website incorporated both formative and summative evaluation with classroom teachers and was officially launched in May 2015. The Tree Room was developed through a partnership among the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, the Yale-Peabody Museum, and the Paleontological Research Institution with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.