When Len Eisenberg walks into a classroom to give a presentation, he likes to tell students that a dog is their 27-millionth cousin.

Explaining to children that every living creature is connected and related is a sure way to grab their attention, the Ashland, Ore., resident believes. “Bing—all eyes are up front when I say that,” said Eisenberg, who volunteers to speak in schools about evolutionary theory, as well as topics such as earth science, geology, and oil and gas.

Retired from the petroleum industry, Eisenberg began volunteering in schools more than 10 years ago, when his daughter attended elementary school. He would tutor in math and science and offer to help out in classes, something he continued even after his daughter finished school.

Eisenberg said when it comes to the teaching of evolution in schools, many teachers shy away, afraid of creating controversy. “I think there’s a fair number of teachers who downplay it because they aren’t comfortable with it themselves,” he said.

A 2010 Pennsylvania University study of more than 900 high school biology teachers revealed that nearly 60 percent of teachers were wary of teaching evolution. Fewer than 30 percent of teachers surveyed followed National Research Council recommendations for the teaching of evolution, while 13 percent taught creationism or intelligent design theories.

To support the accurate, in-depth teaching of evolution, Eisenberg created www.evogeneao.com, a website that offers resources for teachers.

The website seeks to promote the teaching of evolution by emphasizing one of its great lessons: that life on Earth is one big extended family. This view of life can be thought of as “evolutionary genealogy,” and the name of the website—Evogeneao (ee-voh-gee-nee-oh)—is a play on this term.

A “Tree of Life” poster depicts the beginning of life and creation of bacteria, and it expands out to plants, fish, reptiles, and eventually mammals created through evolution. The site outlines evolutionary genealogy and its use as a teaching tool, and teachers also can email Eisenberg for a free PDF slideshow that explains evolutionary theory and responds to its common criticisms.

(c) 2013, the Mail Tribune (Medford, Ore.). Visit the Mail Tribune online at www.mailtribune.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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