Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:40 PM


VISAGGI, Christy C., Geosciences, Georgia State University, PO Box 4105, Atlanta, GA 30302,

Evolution can be a controversial subject in the classroom, particularly in the southeastern U.S. Students may be uncomfortable learning about evolutionary concepts, especially if presented in a straightforward manner that does not allow for exploration. However, use of place-based approaches, in which concepts are examined in a geographic context of relevance to the students, can encourage learning about evolution by studying suites of fossils discovered from a region that is meaningful to them. This presentation focuses on the utility of place-based education in the geosciences and how paleontological examples specific to Georgia are used in the classroom to foster interest in, and acceptance of, evolution.

Three courses at Georgia State University cover aspects of evolution as part of the curriculum designed for majors, non-majors, or pre-service teachers. Topics that incorporate discussions of evolution include an examination of the history of life, methods in biostratigraphy, morphological changes across lineages, and evidence of adaptation in the fossil record. Because place-based education is utilized as a recurring framework in these courses, paleontological examples uncovered from different physiographic regions of Georgia can be easily integrated in instruction related to evolution. In addition, support from the Paleontological Society and Georgia Geographic Alliance for a K-12 workshop emphasizing place in studying paleontology allowed for the development of additional resources for examining evolution using groups of fossils found in the state. Trilobites, echinoids, whales, and horses represent key fauna that can be useful for investigating evolutionary concepts in Georgia. Tools created for online access afterward included a “GA Paleo Tour” offering an opportunity for public exploration of such discoveries statewide through MapMaker Interactive from National Geographic. Examples of activities and approaches used in these settings will be reviewed in this presentation including an assessment as to how the effectiveness of place-based approaches can be evaluated in addressing evolution in the classroom.