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SVP Paleontology Education Workshop

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Why Paleontology Education?

Do you remember learning about fossils in school?

If you do, you're lucky! 

We all probably know a young person who can spout names of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures. Many of us probably were that child, once upon a time!

Paleontology, the study of ancient life, is one of the "gateway" sciences, a way to engage students with natural history and scientific disciplines with a pull that brings in even students who may traditionally have never pursued a science career.

Many students learn about paleontology in K-12 school, while others take a course as an undergraduate that sparks their interest. Still others learn about paleontology through their own personal interests and research.

But how can we best communicate paleontology, and help make it accessible to even more students and educators?

In today's environment of anti-science rhetoric, this initiative is important now, more than ever.

We want to change the way paleontology is taught and shared with students and educators alike. Through this workshop, we will share our 'best practices' in paleontology education - whether in K-12 schools, undergraduate education, graduate and medical school educational techniques, or museum education and outreach. 

We applied for a groundbreaking workshop to connect paleontologists, professors, teachers, and students - and our workshop proposal was accepted!

During the meeting, we'll spread awareness on how best to reach the most students, how to support fellow paleontology educators, and share ways to mentor non-traditional students and educators.

Who are we?

We're paleontologists and passionate educators. We want to make sure all students and educators have the best resources possible to keep on the cutting edge of our science.

Taormina Lepore: Research Associate and Science Educator, The Webb Schools of California and the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, California, USA.

M. Allison Stegner: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.

Ashley Hall: Adult Programs Coordinator, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio, USA.

Ariel E. Marcy: PhD Candidate, Educational Game Designer, University of Queensland, Australia.

Ashley C. Morhardt, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Departments of Neuroscience and Anthropology, Washington University School of Medicine, USA.

What will our workshop be like?

We're so excited to share new ways of thinking in paleontology education, and generate a common set of practices across our discipline.

We aim to:

-Connect paleontology educators from the K-12, museum education, informal outreach, undergraduate, graduate, and medical school spheres

-Share best practices in vertebrate paleontology education, expanding upon outreach and education techniques from a number of our members’ institutions

-Bring research from our museums and universities to a number of classroom types through open access and digital resources

-Create a dialogue on science education pedagogy - how a subject is taught - with immediately implementable tips and techniques for teachers and instructors of a variety of student levels

-Provide a deliverable special journal issue or white paper on pedagogy techniques and paleontology education trends 

-Assess how we as scientists interact with the public, and how we as educators interact with science and communicate it effectively

-Implement a network of mentor resources for young professionals in paleontology education, as well as a network of mentor resources for students from underrepresented groups, including female-identifying students, LGBTQ students, and students from nontraditional backgrounds (including students of color)

Our workshop will be held Tuesday, August 22, 2017 from 1:00PM to 4:30PM at the TELUS Convention Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, during the 77th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP).

What's our budget?

Registration for our conference workshop is free. We're doing that so we can make sure as many students and teachers can attend as humanly possible!

Because we're meeting after lunch, we're hoping to snag some coffee and snacks, set up by our host hotel. This will cost $20 per person, with a maximum of 50 people, and that's what a big chunk of our budget will go towards - that's around $1000.

We'll also need some swag to give away, such as buttons or tag ribbons, which won't cost us too much - under $100. 

We would also like to publish an academic paper synthesizing our ideas on best practices in paleontology education, which could have a publication cost associated with it - anywhere between $1500 and $2000. Unless we can get this cost waived, it will be the majority of our funding needs.

Any funding we receive beyond our budget will be donated to an amazing cause, to help support students at SVP.

Thank you so much for your support!

With your support, we'll be able to keep our costs low, share our work in a peer-reviewed source, and attract as many young students and up-and-coming educators as possible.

We hope this will be a springboard to even more, and deeper, discussions about paleontology education at professional paleontology meetings worldwide!

What attendees will see in the workshop catalogue:

This workshop will provide a break-out session and pedagogical sounding board for students and educators from a variety of levels to share best practices and trends in paleontology education.

As an expansion of the outreach and education posters, and in addition to past education workshop events, this workshop will serve as an opportunity to check the pulse of our society’s education initiatives, and to connect educators across many levels. We will cross-pollinate our ideas on student critical thinking, 21st century science skills, science careers in the U.S., Canada, and abroad, the teaching of evolutionary biology, and support for educators in a variety of venues and from a variety of backgrounds.

Importantly, we will share ways to implement mentorship in paleontology for students from traditionally underrepresented groups - the next generation of scientists and scientific educators. This workshop will serve as a test to gauge greater interest in a full educational symposium in future years.

Following a short series of introductory talks on pedagogical best practices, workshop participants will be able to engage in a series of activities that will produce educational materials for immediate use in a wide variety of classrooms and informal education venues.

Museum educators, university educators, and K-12 teachers will have the opportunity to network. Cutting edge research techniques and open access paleontology resources will be shared, along with broad pedagogical methods such as constructivism, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and project-based learning, to create a forum for expanding our collective educational toolkits within the society.

How do our members interact with and educate the public, and how can we be the best science communicators possible? Participants will leave with refreshing ideas on how to engage and excite our science students and the public at large.

For more information, and to register, visit


Taormina Lepore
Pomona, CA

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