Happy birthday, Charlie!

by Rebekah Bennetch, Saskatoon Secular Family Network

Last Saturday we marked the 202nd birthday of Charles Darwin by participating in a Darwin Day celebration.  Our parenting group coordinated the event with two other atheist/skeptic/freethinking groups in Saskatoon — in fact, the leader of the Saskatoon Skeptics was able to have February 12th officially declared “Darwin Day” in the province of Saskatchewan!

This was the first year that family activities were added to the Saskatoon celebration — our aim for Darwin Day was to get kids excited about learning more about science.  In preparing for the event, I sent out several emails to the members of the group and sought to recruit volunteers to lead different “stations” for the kids to explore, hands-on, various fields of science.

I was so impressed with how many people stepped up to make our Darwin Day celebration a success!  Here’s a quick list of some of the stations we had set up on Saturday:

  • Learning about natural selection, using ‘teddy grahams’ crackers
  • Playing with ‘gak’, a non-Newtonian fluid
  • A color-mixing station, learning about additive/subtractive color combinations
  • Find-your-own-fossils, where the kids could sort through a pile of potash to find fossils that were millions of years old!
  • A buoyancy exhibit, where kids could learn why things float (and get a little wet in the process)
  • Devolve Me,’ a website takes picture of your face to see what you would look like as a Neanderthal or other human ancestor
  • A *huge* collection of fossils for the kids to look at, pick up, and learn about — a member of our group is a novice paleontologist, and volunteered to haul out his personal collection for us to see!
  • Kids made their own fossil prints with “stone clay” — using shells, twigs, animal footprints, etc
  • There was an evolution word search for the older kids to try
  • and the They Might Be Giant’s CD “Science is Real” provided the soundtrack for the activities!

The afternoon was a huge success, and added a new dimension to the annual Darwin Day event here in Saskatoon.

Now if you’re looking at this list of activities and are thinking that putting together an event like this would be impossible for your small parenting group — DON’T think that!

Our Saskatoon group has no real budget, and most of our activities were cheap or free to put on. Some of the volunteers contributed the materials, and we also were able to work with the local Childrens’ Discovery Museum to have a few exhibits loaned to us for the afternoon.  The most costly element to putting together an event like this is to dedicate the time and planning to make sure it all comes together.

Here are a few pictures of the day, along with a video of the kids singing ‘happy birthday’ to Darwin, before the cake was cut:

More pictures of our Darwin Day celebration are here in this Flickr set.

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