Roanoke gears up for Darwin Days celebration

by rcnewsblog on February 11, 2013

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Only the fittest will survive Roanoke College’s Darwin Days scavenger hunt.

The scavenger hunt is one of the most popular events during Roanoke College’s annual, weeklong Darwin Days celebration. Beginning Feb. 12, there will be several events around campus, culminating in the much-anticipated scavenger hunt and Charles Darwin’s birthday celebration on Friday, Feb. 15.

Darwin Days is a “global celebration of science and reason” held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Darwin, according to the International Darwin Day Foundation’s website.

This year will mark the sixth anniversary of Darwin Days at Roanoke College. Dr. DorothyBelle Poli, a biology professor at Roanoke, introduced the College to Darwin Days and has served as its organizer ever since.

“Oftentimes people view Darwin as a villain or some scientist who tried to kill God, so it is really important to show an educating community who he really was and what he really did,” Poli said.  “Beyond science and religion, Darwin has impacted just about every discipline on campus in some fashion, including fields like sociology, psychology, literature and history. That’s really why I brought him to campus because he has done so much.”

The most exciting and popular events during Darwin Days have been the scavenger hunt and the large birthday celebration. Last year, 33 teams of four participated in the scavenger hunt and more than 350 people attended the birthday event, Poli said.

The popularity of these events may be due to the prize money. This year, the scavenger hunt alone will give away $1,000 in cash. Cash prizes are given to the top three winners, and there are smaller awards for creative interpretation.

To participate in the scavenger hunt, students must notify Dr. Chris Lassiter, who is a biology professor at Roanoke, via email with the names of their team members.

Lassiter will email the list of scavenger hunt items that the teams will need to find before 4 p.m., and students report to Wortmann Ballroom by 7 p.m. with their results.

“[Lassiter and I] make them go all over the place to find these items,” Poli said. “Each of the items has a different value, so they have to use strategy to pick and choose which items they should go after.”

Some items from last year’s scavenger hunt included a wedding dress, Snoopy snow cone machine and a beta tape with a G.I. Joe cartoon on it. Most of the items have to be brought back to campus for judging, but participants can take photos of some of the items on the list.

“Sometimes it’s finding very specific items and sometimes it’s about getting creative because you may not be able to find a specific item, but you can get creative by making something and getting some of the points,” Poli said. “Students appear to really get into it.”

Check out some of the other Darwin Day events:

Tuesday, Feb. 12
Lunchtime Discussion: Darwin’s Impact on My Religion
11:30 a.m. in Pickle Lounge

Roanoke College faculty with a wide array of religious backgrounds will gather to discuss Darwin and how his theories have affected their religious beliefs. Participating faculty members include Poli, who is an atheist; Lassiter, who grew up as a Southern Baptist; Ms. Kathryn Elmore, who is a Presbyterian and teaches in the Education Department; Dr. Jennifer Berenson, who is a religion professor and associate dean of Academic Affairs and Administration; and Dr. David Nichols, who is a psychology professor and a Roman Catholic.

Wednesday, Feb. 13
Movie Showing of “The Revisionaries”
7:15 p.m., Massengill Auditorium

This documentary reports on the controversies surrounding education—and more specifically, textbooks—in America. “The Revisionaries” focuses on California and Texas’ State Boards of Education because they “are the two states with the most textbooks-purchasing muscle because of the size of their student enrollments—6.2 million and 5 million, respectively,” said a recent PBS article. Because these states control the majority of the textbook-purchasing power, they have been able to essentially rewrite history. The issues revolving around the liberal and conservative biases of these educational mega-powers have been rekindled by the possible re-election of Don McLeroy to Texas’ State Board of Education. As an unabashed Creationist, McLeroy has been put under the microscope to see how he might alter future textbooks, especially regarding Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Friday, Feb. 15
Darwin’s Birthday Celebration

The celebration begins after the scavenger hunt ends at

This year’s Darwin Days’ theme is the coral reefs, which will be represented by an illustration of the coral reefs on tie-dye t-shirts. These t-shirts will be given out on the first floor of the Colket Center. If you are new to Darwin Days, then you should know that these t-shirts tend to go fast, so try to arrive a little early. In the spirit of Darwin, only the fittest—or in this case, the earliest—will survive, or at least get a t-shirt.

As you are picking up your t-shirts make sure you listen for the sweet sounds of reggae music. A reggae DJ will be located in the Atrium, so everyone can experience some of Darwin Day’s coral reef—or Caribbean-themed—music. The first floor of the Colket Center will also house a photo booth to capture the night. You will be able to dress up like Darwin by donning some Victorian garb and capturing the moment in a complementary photo booth.

Don’t stop in the Atrium though because several other rooms in Colket will be abuzz with Darwin celebrations. In Patterson, there will be a museum gallery of sorts. This gallery will include a fossil display and slideshow provided by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, a coral and fish preserves display courtesy of Roanoke’s Biology Department, as well as other attractions from Roanoke’s Bittle Geology Collection. Also, a portion of The Roanoke Valley Reef, a crotchet representation of a coral reef, will be on display the top floor of the Colket Center.

Finally, make sure you stop by Pickle Lounge somewhere along your Darwin voyage. There will be food, a cash bar and a water pong tournament with prizes for the winners.

–By Caitlin Mitchell ’13

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