Discovering Darwin The MSU Museum’s annual event celebrates and educates

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The MSU Museum is known as the university’s science and culture museum. Its events and exhibits aim not only to educate, but to pique the interest of the public. The museum’s annual Darwin Discovery Day carries on this tradition, entertaining and informing through the father of evolutionary biology himself, Charles Darwin.

“Darwin Discovery Day is the MSU Museum’s annual celebration of science, exploration and discovery,” said Julie Fick, the science education specialist at the MSU Museum. “Departments from all over MSU come together to interact with the public, show off interesting specimens and take part in fun science activities.”

Though the day is an annual event for the MSU Museum — this year marks its 14th occurrence on campus — Darwin Discovery Day is also celebrated in science and natural history museums around the world in mid-February to honor Charles Darwin’s birthday. While celebrating at the MSU Museum, the public can learn about active research on MSU’s campus, tour museum vertebrate collections, walk to the MSU planetarium for a special Darwin-themed show, bring in a rock, bone, fossil or other natural object for a scientist to identify and more. And since the museum is celebrating a birthday after all, cake will be provided to guests.

While Darwin Discovery Day attracts all age groups — from children to MSU scholars — the day couldn’t be made possible without the help of MSU students who volunteer at the event and help spread the word.

 “MSU students play one of the most important roles at [Darwin Discovery Day] — they’re our volunteers,” said Fick. “MSU students in departments from anthropology to zoology show specimens, lead activities and generally help the event go smoothly — we literally could not run [Darwin Discovery Day] without them.”

Students don’t have to be volunteers to appreciate the event. Alissa Mossbarger, a senior majoring in nutritional sciences and human biology, values the intent behind Darwin Discovery Day and the appreciation of science it aims to create among visitors. 

“[Darwin Discovery Day] is an interactive way to learn about science and make it fun,” Mossbarger said. “It’s a great way to see how the things we’re learning in the classroom can be applied and taught in different, interactive ways.”

For Fick, however, the day isn’t limited to only those involved with science. Darwin Discovery Day — embodied this year by the theme “variation” to highlight the differences in genetic codes that are the building blocks of evolution — is for everyone. “Anyone who wants to get excited about the beauty of the natural world is welcomed and encouraged to come,” she said.

This year’s Darwin Discovery Day is Feb. 11 from 1-5 p.m. at the MSU Museum and is free to the public. For more information on the event, visit museum.msu.edu. If you’re interested in volunteering at Darwin Discovery Day, contact Julie Fick at jfick@msu.edu.