Darwin Day Activities
Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity held on or around February 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born on in 1809. Specifically, it celebrates the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin—the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection.
It is a day to express gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity. It has been celebrated in many different ways: civic ceremonies with official proclamations, educational symposia, birthday parties, art shows, book discussions, lobby days, games, protests, and dinner parties. With Darwin Day, we are able to recognize the diversity among us, while celebrating our common humanity and the universal understanding we share.
There are many events you can hold for Darwin Day. Mix and match from this list of common activities, or create your own.
- Hosting a speaker(s) - Speakers could discuss evolution, the origins of humankind, the evolution of life in your area, the life of Darwin, how evolutionary theory has evolved, why intelligent design isn't science, and any other topic in freethought or science.
- Debate or Panel - A debate between a creationist or religious leader and a scientist or atheist. A similar, less controversial possibility is a panel discussion wherein a scientist, a religious leader, a non-religious leader, a philosopher or others to discuss evolution's impact on religion, society, and humanity's place in the world.
- Party! - Get a Darwin birthday cake. Consider crafting bears and dressing up like Darwin, or in a gorilla suit.
- Ice Cream Social - for freethinkers, life scientists, and anyone else interested in Darwin, evolution, and biology. (With options for vegans and the lactose-intolerant, of course).
- Urge your mayor or local council to issue a proclamation on the importance of Darwin's scientific discoveries, the value of evolutionary theory for all sciences, and the importance of scientific literacy in education and public life.
- Humanist Advocacy Day - wherein your members can directly lobby legislators and public officials to promote science education, state/church separation, and other freethought issues.
- Table - Hand out information about your group, evolutionary theory, and science education. Remember to order SSA Darwin Day tabling supplies!
- Public Reading - Gather volunteers to read from the Origin of Species in a public space.
- Movie - show an evolution-related movie; some possibilities include Inherit the Wind, and Flock of Dodos. Students DO NOT need public screening rights to show any of the videos on Richard Dawkins' website. If you're daring, screen Expelled with callbacks.
Whatever event you have, you should be sure to register your event with the international Darwin Day Celebration!
Promotion is an important part of any event. People can't attend if they don't know it's happening! For general promotion ideas, see our Group Promotion and Media Relations resource. If you are hosting a speaker, follow the Speaker Event Planning Checklist.
For Darwin Day, consider reaching out to a biology club or department, if they exist at your school. Register your event on the international Darwin Day website.
Past Events & Proclamations:
Here are some past events from SSA affiliate groups.
- University of Texas at Arlington's celebration featured a postcard-writing campaign & birthday cake.
- The Institute for Humanist Studies Advocacy Day in Albany, NY caught the ear of many lawmakers.
- Minnesota Atheists worked to get the mayors of both St. Paul and Minneapolis to sign Darwin Day proclamations.
- Amusingly, the proclamation signed by the Governor of Massachusetts contained a prominent theistic slogan.
Links & Resources:
- For everything about Darwin Day, visit the website of Darwin Day Celebration and go through our general Darwin Day guide.
- The SSA has a number of resources for hosting speakers, debates, and panels. Our Speakers and Debate Resource Guide lists both our resources and those hosted elsewhere. For ideas on how to host an Ask-an-Atheist Panel, take a look at that activity packet.
- For information on Lobbying and Political Advocacy, including letter-writing campaigns and passing proclamations, see our packet.
- For ideas and tips on tabling, see our activity packet.
One of the best resources to find out what works and what doesn't is you - our student leaders! If you've employed a strategy that worked well, let us know about it so other groups can also use that idea. If you've learned a lesson of caution about something we suggest, point out the pitfalls! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories and experiences!