Darwin Day is a three-day volunteer run event that promotes the concept of evolution and its teaching in classrooms across Tennessee.

There will be an information booth set up on the Pedestrian Mall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, as well as movie screenings about evolution at 11 a.m. and noon in Hodges Library, Room 213. There are also keynote speakers Wednesday and Thursday nights at the UC Auditorium from 7 to 9 p.m.

Darwin Day has been happening around Tennessee for the last 14 years. Darwin was a self-taught English naturalist who developed the theory of evolution and natural selection. During a five-year voyage that began in 1831, Darwin took detailed accounts of plants and animals as he spent most of his time on land. These accounts are the basis of his theories of evolution and natural selection. After returning to England, he published these theories and the evidence collected from that voyage in the 1859 book “On the Origin of Species.”

Sara Kuebbing is a graduate research assistant in ecology and evolutionary biology and the co-coordinator for Darwin Day. Kuebbing said she believes Darwin Day is important because it is such an essential concept in science these days.

“Evolution is a central concept in biology,” Kuebbing said. “Darwin Day is meant to teach people about why it is an important concept and why it needs to be taught in science classes.”

Kuebbing said the purpose of Darwin Day is not only to inform the public about evolution, but also to incorporate the theory into Tennessee’s science curriculums. One showcase of Darwin Day is a teacher workshop held on Tuesday night. Teachers are provided extra textbooks on science education, which include evolution, and curriculums that meet state standards for teaching evolution. The workshop is intended to assist teachers in the classroom while teaching evolution as a part of their science curriculum.

“The point of the workshop is to help teach middle school and high school science teachers how to teach evolution effectively,” Jessica Welch, the coordinator for Darwin Day, said. “A lot of teachers come because they have an idea of evolution, but they do not know enough about it themselves to effectively teach the students, so we have two of our evolutionary biologists go and teach them evolution so they can better teach students. We also have a science teacher there who has experience teaching evolution who can help them more as a teacher rather than a professor that has no training, and it turns out to be very successful, especially here in Tennessee.”

This comes at a time when the teaching of evolution in classrooms is being threatened. Evolution is currently part of Tennessee’s high school biology course. Tennessee’s House Bill 368 passed the House of Representatives on a 70-23 vote on April 7, 2011; the bill’s purpose was to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” One of the controversial theories is biological evolution. This means that teachers would not get disciplined for teaching something other than evolution, or not teaching it at all.

“Here in Tennessee I’ve actually heard from some teachers that fellow teachers don’t teach evolution in their classrooms, even though it’s a requirement.” Welch said. “These teachers would rather their students fail on that portion on their exit exam than go to the trouble of learning evolution, teaching it and tackling the problem of people being against it.”

When asked to summarize what people can take away from Darwin Day, Kuebbing said that people should realize that the event is not an attack.

“I hope they can take away that Darwin Day is not an attack on anything, but it’s promoting the understanding of why evolution is important to biology and promotion of science education — the fundamental side of science day. We are all about science education,” Kuebbing said.