McClung Museum hosts Darwin Day birthday celebration, teaches kids about evolutionary science

Knoxville families were invited to McClung Museum on Saturday to learn more about evolutionary science and the work of Charles Darwin in honor of Darwin’s upcoming birthday.

Knoxville’s young and old alike were invited to McClung Museum on Saturday for the third annual Darwin Day celebration.

This event was the first of four for Darwin Day at UT. It was an early birthday party for Charles Darwin, who was born February 12, 1809. The event was free and family-oriented, with cake, music and crafts for kids of all ages.

Jen Bauer, a graduate student in Earth and planetary sciences who volunteers with the museum, said Darwin’s birthday party is a great way to get kids thinking about science.

“We’re just interested in promoting evolutionary science in general and dispelling a lot of misinformation that’s out there. We just want kids to be excited about science and not be afraid to ask questions,” she said.

The main way the party got kids thinking about evolutionary science was at the crafts table,where they made their own phylogenetic trees. Phylogenetic trees are diagrams that show evolutionary relationships between different species. The kids could make them out of construction paper, popsicle sticks, and string.

“They can pick the animals that they want to be on the tree, and think about how they’re related to one another and then take it home and hang it up.” Bauer said.

Partygoers could also make buttons, complete a scavenger hunt through McClung Museum and take pictures with the Charles Darwin puppet in attendance.

Each of the children found something to enjoy:

“I like doing the arts and crafts.” — Isabella, age 6.

“So far, I like the museum the best.” — Louis, age 6.

“My favorite part is celebrating my birthday too. I will be nine when Darwin turns 208.” — Rose, age 8.

The party wasn’t just for kids, either. As senior community member Jack Slaughter said, “It’s something fun to do, to get away from the Super Bowl.”

Even Monty the Edmontosaurus, unofficial mascot of McClung Museum, joined in on the fun with a party hat of his very own. Monty’s party hat was made for him by Lindsey Jo Wainwright, Coordinator of Academic Programs at McClung Museum.

“It turns out you can’t buy dinosaur sized party hats,” Wainwright said.

The Darwin Day fun will continue next week with a parade and two lectures. The Evolution and Science Parade will take place on Pedestrian Walkway at 12 pm on Monday, February 13. The Keynote speech will be delivered by Dr. Stacey D. Smith in AMB Cox Auditorium at 7 pm that evening. Smith will discuss this year’s theme, plant adaptation. The final event will be a lecture by Darwin Day Tennessee Founder, Dr. Massimo Pigliucci at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, February 14.

Full details can be found at darwindaytn.org.

This story was also published on The Tennessee Journalist news website. To view it there, please click this link:

http://www.tnjn.com/2017/02/05/mcclung-museum-hosts-darwin-day-birthday-celebration-teaches-kids-on-evolutionary-science/

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UT Students to Sponsor Sister March

The University of Tennessee will play host to a march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington on Friday, January 20th.

More than 200,000 people have committed to attend the march in Washington D.C on the march’s Facebook page, and “sister marches” are being held in all 50 states and in 32 countries. According to the Facebook page, the purpose of the marches is to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office.”

The UT Sister March will be the only official march taking place on Friday, the day before the actual inauguration.

The University of Tennessee’s March for Human Rights, sponsored by the Undergraduate Anthropology Association, will gather just an hour after President-elect Trump’s swearing-in ceremony begins. Marchers will meet at 12:30 outside the Humanities and Social Sciences building, known on campus as the HSS amphitheater. The faculty notification about the march stresses that “people of all colors and identities are invited.”

Kendy Altizer, a doctoral candidate in the department of anthropology at UT, is a member of the Knoxville chapter of the Women’s March on Washington, and she was a key organizer in UT’s sister march.

“We started to see sister marches pop up, and it really gained traction. When I applied for a permit for this march, there were less than 200. Now there are 660, all over the world. Over a million people will be attending these. We needed to have one here,” Altizer says.

The march’s Facebook page has 26 RSVPs, but Altizer says she is expecting up to 400 people. There won’t just be students demonstrating – Altizer has been receiving RSVPs from the greater Knoxville community.

Kate Stamper, a senior at UT, will be one of the students speaking at the march.

“I think it’s important to have this march, because a lot of women are not able to travel to DC. It’s a real villager to be able to take off work and go to DC. It gives students who can’t travel a chance to stand against the Trump presidency,” Stamper said.

The official Women’s March on Washington will occur on Saturday, Donald Trump’s first day as United States president. What began as an online event created by a retired attorney in Hawaii is set to be the largest demonstration in protest of the Trump presidency. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are partnered with the march. Celebrities such as Scarlett Johanssen and Katy Perry are expected to attend. Even an Illinois Congressman who is skipping the inauguration will be coming out for the march.

As surprising as the force with which the event spread worldwide may be to some, for Stamper, the reason for marching is simple.

“I want to stand on the right side of history,” she said.

This story was also published on The Tennessee Journalist news website. To view it there, follow this link:

http://www.tnjn.com/2017/01/19/ut-to-host-sister-march-with-womens-march-on-washington/

 

Knoxville City Council Saves $2 Million on New Garbage Contract

If you’re tired of Knoxville’s system of hauling four metal garbage cans to your curb week after week, the City Council has come to your rescue. The Council approved a new solid waste management contract at their latest meeting that’s going to save the city $2 million and save its homeowners three garbage cans’ worth of inconvenience.

The Knoxville City Council has approved a new solid waste management contract that could save the city nearly $2 million a year for the next seven years and take some of the pain out of garbage day for Knoxville homeowners.

The vote was unanimous apart from an abstention by Councilman Marshall Stair, whose law firm has represented Waste Connections of Tennessee, Inc.

Waste Connections was the winner out of four bidders for Knoxville’s solid waste needs, with a $2.9 million bid. That’s down from the $4.9 million current contract Waste Connections has held with the city for over a decade.

Why the drop in price?

According to Public Works Director Chad Weth, new garbage carts will be the star of the show.

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Public works director Chad Weth was present at Tuesday’s meeting to answer any questions the council might have about the waste contract.

At a meeting in September, the council voted to set aside the $2.9 million to purchase 60,000 new garbage receptacles. Knoxville residents will now be permitted one 95-gallon garbage carts to replace the four 32-gallon cans currently allowed.

Weth says this will save the city money in work time. A  semi-automated machine will dump waste out of the carts and into trucks, instead of individual workers hauling bags out of cans.

“It allows a more modern look, and that’s where the cost savings come from with the new haul-in contract.”

But the new contract will provide benefits for citizens as well.

“A lot of times people put garbage down in there, and it gets blown over, or an animal gets in it. These carts are standardized carts; they won’t allow that to happen,” Weth says.

Weth also mentioned the benefits of garbage not getting wet when it rains, and less litter from cans blowing over.

Finnbarr Saunders brought up concerns before the vote about the size of the cart and “perceived difficulty in moving it around.”

Weth assured the council that any person who has difficulty because of age or physical ability can apply for backdoor garbage service, which is free. Those interested can contact Knoxville’s 3-1-1 call center to apply or ask any questions about changes to solid waste services.  

The new contract is worth $3.8 million total and will take effect on January 1.

For an audio version of this web story, listen below:

City Council reviews parking appeal for new business (story for print)

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A debate over parking agreements raised questions about the use of old commercial properties in Knoxville that lack sufficient parking space.

The council voted 7-1 to deny an appeal by Lockett Road homeowner Maha Ayesh. Ms. Ayesh was appealing a unanimous decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals to allow Abridged Beer Company owner Jesse Bowers to amend the required number of parking spaces at his new restaurant from 43 to zero.

“The proposed establishment is described as a brewery and restaurant. I’m going to refer to it as bar, because that’s what I see it as, is a bar,” Ms. Ayesh said.

Neighbors voiced concerns about reckless driving, noise, and patrons parking on the street in front of their homes.

“It can’t be injurious to the neighborhood. We’re very concerned that it will be injurious.”

“I know I’m going to have people come down through my yard, maybe some of them will park in my yard,” said longtime resident Gene Herrill.

Mr. Bowers has reached an alternative parking agreement with Erin Presbyterian Church to allow restaurant goers to use their lot, a plan that offers little comfort to Lockett road residents. Neighbors noted that the church hosts regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and the restaurant will have hours on Sunday evenings.

The council noted the lack of other options; every establishment allowed in the general commercial zone requires parking that doesn’t exist at this property.

“The issue is really the parking, and it sounds like the opposition is really based on the use. There’s no use of this property without some type of variance,” said Councilman Marshall Stair.

The appeal was denied, and Abridged Beer Company will be allowed to continue its plans.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Reem Abdelrazek, who was there to support her neighbor’s appeal. “I feel like we were blindsided.”

City Council Examines Property Use and Parking (story for web)

Knoxville City Council made a decision Tuesday that could spell the future of shared parking for new businesses.

A debate over shared parking raised questions about the use of older commercial properties in Knoxville that lack parking space.

The council denied an appeal by Maha Ayesh. Ayesha lives on Lockett Road, and was appealing a unanimous decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals to allow Abridged Beer Company owner Jesse Bowers to amend the required number of parking spaces at his new restaurant from 43 to zero.

“The proposed establishment is described as a brewery and restaurant. I’m going to refer to it as bar, because that’s what I see it as, is a bar,” Ayesh said.

Neighbors were concerned about reckless driving, noise, and patrons parking on the street in front of their homes.

“It can’t be injurious to the neighborhood. We’re very concerned that it will be injurious.”

“I know I’m going to have people come down through my yard, maybe some of them will park in my yard,” said longtime homeowner Gene Herrill.

Bowers made an alternative, shared parking agreement with nearby Erin Presbyterian Church to allow restaurant goers to use their lot, a plan that offers little comfort to angry neighbors. As neighbors pointed out, the church hosts Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and the restaurant will have hours on Sundays.

The council noted the lack of other options; every establishment allowed in the general commercial zone requires parking that doesn’t exist at this property.

“The issue is really the parking, and it sounds like the opposition is really based on the use. There’s no use of this property without some type of variance,” said Councilman Marshall Stair.

The appeal was denied, and Abridged Beer Company will be continuing with its plans.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Reem Abdelrazek, who was there to support her neighbor’s appeal. “I feel like we were blindsided.”

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Ayesh speaking before the council at the meeting on September 13.

A portion of the appeal documents filed by Ayesh.

Knox County sophomore brings dress code issues before board of education

IMG_0312.JPGThe debate over dress code in Knox County Schools took center stage during the public forum portion of the board of education’s meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Farragut High School sophomore Hollie Sikes identified herself before the board by saying, “You may know me as the girl who started the dress code petition.”

Sikes pointed out that she had never been reprimanded for breaking Knox County’s dress code, but knew people who had been “called out and embarrassed” over what they were wearing.

“The reason I started this petition, sincerely, was because in our day and age it is nearly impossible to find girls’ shorts that come below fingertip length,” Sikes said.

This is in reference to what’s called “the fingertip rule,” which is applied to female students in Knox County. The rule states that a student’s hemline must never rise above their fingertips. Specifically, Sikes questioned the fairness of girls having to buy all new clothes for hot school days.

“When school comes around,” said Sikes, “we are forced to spend money on brand new clothes that we will never wear outside of school.”

Sikes also noted that teachers did not seem to be held to the same standards as students.

“I have seen teachers wearing tank tops calls girls and boys alike down for wearing something similar.”

According to Sikes, the idea for the petition started with a joke she made to her friends in a group chat. On August 13, when she posted her petition on change.org, she said the hope was for maybe 500 signatures.

By September 7, the date of the meeting, her petition had 3,728 signatures.

“It was wild,” Sikes said. “It had like a thousand signatures in a day.”

Although Sikes has many supporters for her cause, there are some who disagreed with her stance on the issue. Student representative Sydney Rowell is one such case.

“I feel like our dress code is pretty lenient,” Rowell said in response. “I personally don’t see that any changes could be made to the dress code.”

Rowell expressed that more flexible regulations would make dress code unnecessarily hard to enforce for teachers and administrators.

Some of Sikes’s examples about the availability of clothes which are deemed appropriate, such as clothing store Forever 21 only offering two pairs of dress code appropriate shorts, failed to impress board member Tony Norman.

After the meeting, Norman stated, “I’m sorry, there’s the internet. You can order anything. That’s not a valid argument.”

Norman also said he would not be in favor of changing the dress code in any way.

For Sikes and her thousands of supporters online, the future of the dress code still remains unclear.

This article was published by The Tennessee Journalist on September 8th, 2016. The post on that website can be found here:

Knox County sophomore brings dress code issues before board of education