Whales used to walk on land! How could that be? DCD 5th grade students have been studying whales and this was a fact that recently garnered deep discussion in class. As a follow-up, the children Skyped with Audrey Kelly, a PhD candidate in evolutionary biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently doing research on “how interactions between populations and species can affect evolution, and how those interactions are themselves influenced by the environment.”  To illustrate this, Audrey showed the children two species of spadefoot toads that she is observing in her study. 

In addition to her presenting some of her work, she fielded questions from the class relevant to her area of research and what the children are studying.  Each student had prepared a couple of questions to ask such as: Can plants evolve into animals? What will change next in humans? What effect will climate change have on the evolution of species? Her stark assessment that “climate change will drive evolution especially for plants because they can not migrate” made us all pause to consider the implications.
Lower school science teacher, Sue Shirley has been taking advantage of the Skype a Scientist program which enables students to connect live with scientists all over the world on topics they are studying.  It’s been a powerful way to relate what they are studying in the classroom with applications and research that is being conducted in the real world. Perhaps one of these students, asking the questions now in elementary school, will be on the other side of the camera in the future answering questions from their own lab!  For more information about the program visit skypeascientist.com.