K - 12 Programs
on Cosmic & Life Evolution

by Connie Barlow


CONNIE BARLOW enjoys presenting on many aspects of the 14 billion year story of cosmic and life evolution, as understood by mainstream science, and doing so in private and public schools, including entirely secular or science programs as well as more religiously oriented settings.

   LEFT: Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow teaching "We are made of stardust!" to teachers at a Montessori training conference in Wilton, Connecticut (October 2003). Montessori schools are a natural for us, because the Universe Story has long been a foundation of the entire Montessori curriculum.

RIGHT: Connie teaching the first child in the circle how to apply "stardust" (glitter) at a Montessori school in Houston. (The poster images on the floor help the children sing the "We Are Made of Stardust" song.)



  • "The Epic of Evolution in Children's Religious Education"
    Long version of a chapter (retitled by publisher to "We Are Stardust") contributed by Connie Barlow to a 2010 book edited by Unitarian Universalist minister Fred Muir. The book is The Whole World Kin: Darwin and the Spirit of Liberal Religion, published by Skinner House Books. Connie's chapter is a summary of her work and philosophy in bringing the Epic of Evolution into religious education for children.

    LEFT: Montessori children compare their timeline of life with Connie's Great Story Beads.

  • 1. "We Are All Cousins" (aka, "Ancestor's Tale" or "The River of Life") for ELEMENTARY age or FAMILIES
    Based on Richard Dawkins 2004 book, Ancestor's Tale, Connie has developed a richly illustrated powerpoint presentation that presents in sequence all 40 stages of our shared ancestry, back to the origin of life. It is highly participatory in that (1) Connie runs it as a guessing game, (2) asks for student volunteers to read scripts at about half of the ancestral nodes in the story, (3) includes slides of the verses of "The River of Life SONG" for students to sing along with, and (4) introduces sequentially simple movement and dance to accompany the singing parts. Overall, this is a fabulous, fun, and high-energy way to learn and celebrate the major groups of living organisms, from bacteria to primate — all of whom are our family. Teachers who would like to offer a participatory version of this program on their own can click here to view or download curriculum, which can be adapted into a once-per-week, 40 week lesson, or into a 3 to 5 session participatory spontaneous + scripted experience.

        Click on image left to watch Part 1 of a (two-part) 90-minute VIDEO of Connie presenting this program for children in 2011 at a Unitarian Universalist church in Georgia, USA.

    After the video starts playing, we recommend you click on the YouTube button in the lower-right part of the picture screen. That will take you to the video's full YouTube page. From there, you can read the long text caption that summarizes the highlights. On the YouTube page, click on the gray "Show more" directly below the truncated text.

    Notice that the text summary includes a full TABLE OF CONTENTS with linked timestops (in blue), which you can click to advance instantly to that portion of the video.

    The Part 2 VIDEO of Ancestor's Tale for Kids opens at confluence #11. Two minutes into that program a child asks why some people don't believe in evolution. Watch Connie's imaginative response!



    Note: Through mid 2010, Connie has conducted this program to great delight 40-50 times: mostly as religious education programs for mixed-aged elementary grades at churches (eg., photos above at C3 Exchange church in Spring Lake MI, 2010), as family programs at church camp retreats, and for one large gathering of homeschool kids and parents. After one such program in a Unitarian Universalist church, Connie learned that a girl ran up to her mother after class, saying "Mommy, Mommy! I'm related to a duck-billed platypus!"

       Connie has adapted the lessons in Richard Dawkins' book, Ancestor's Tale into a richly illustrated powerpoint presentation. This is a fabulous way to learn about the entire "Tree of Life", but using the most up-to-date information on ancestries, with an emphasis on degree of relationship to humans.

    2. "Your Brain's Creation Story"
       (highly recommended for TEENS; another version available for ELEMENTARY age)
    Drawing from exciting new discoveries in evolutionary brain science and evolutionary psychology, Connie uses a pair of colorful charts to lead students through an understanding of how our ancient ancestors are still "alive" within our brains. The most ancient part of our brain, evolved in our reptilian ancestors, is our LIZARD LEGACY. It helps us move and breathe. When mammals emerged, the reptilian brain was augmented by our emotional brain: our FURRY LI'L MAMMAL. Later, the neocortex evolved, thus becoming our rational and incessantly thinking MONKEY MIND. Finally, humans have a highly developed prefrontal cortex, which is crucial for leading a life not just driven by basic instincts; it is our HIGHER PORPOISE (Higher Purpose). For TEENS, this program is nuanced with evolutionary understanding of (1) male and female differences in romance (Furry Li'l Mammal) and sex (Lizard Legacy), and (2) how ADDICTIONS involve our deepest (and least controllable) brain components. The TEEN session concludes with 6 students volunteering to read the DRAMATIC SCRIPTS for an evolutionary parable that poignantly illustrates the science lesson: "Menagerie of the Mind". For ELEMENTARY-age children (and script-reading TEENS), puppets and songs/movement are used to illustrate the four "animal" heritages within our brains.
    "Your presentation with the High Schoolers was amazing. They were really into it! Even the youth adviser said it was awesome and the drama was great. A few teens were even talking about what a cool t-shirt [the chart] would be. Thank you for your time, energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge!" — Stacey Stone, Director of Religious Exploration, Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington KY





      (Hi-Res Charts)


    NOTE: You can purchase the evolutionary brain buttons at right (as well as lapel stickers, hats, tee-shirts with this logo) at an online store. Connie usually has in stock a number of brain science buttons ($1/button), so she will bring them with her to this program. The hand puppets are all made by "Folkmanis Puppets" and can be purchased directly from them or from Puppet-World.com

    Past Programs (available on request)

    3. "We Are Made of Stardust!" (for ELEMENTARY or MIDDLE school)
    - Using the star scenes in "The Lion King" as a place to begin, Connie leads children through the remarkable story of how all the chemical elements (other than simple hydrogen) came into being inside giant stars that lived and died before our sun was born. (Large-format Hubble Space images, an evolutionary version of the Periodic Table of Elements, "stardust" glitter, songs.) Teachers who would like to offer this program on their own can click here to view or download stardust lesson plans, charts, and background information.

       Connie created this New Periodic Table of Elements to show that hydrogen appeared right after the Big Bang, that helium is created inside our sun, that ancestral Red Giant stars produced most of the atoms of oxygen that we breathe, that ancestral Super Blue Giant stars forged all the calcium in our bones, and that all the heavy metals (like gold) flashed into existence in the instance of supernova explosions. All this was what scientists discovered, beginning in 1957.

    4. "Coming Home to North America" (for ELEMENTARY age kids)
    The 65 million year story of mammals evolving within North America or immigrating here from other lands. (Large posters of animals and their immigration paths; play-acting the arrival of animals, a rope demarcating the continent on the floor, opportunity for kids to bring in their own stuffed animals for use in the story.) Teachers who would like to offer this program on their own can click here to view or download lesson plans, charts, and background information.

       This chart of North American Native Mammals shows that the squirrel, dog, horse, and camel family evolved right here, and then spread to other continents. Notice that 3 million years ago, North American horses began entering Asia and then moved into Africa, where we now know them as zebras. The pronghorn family evolved here, too, but never expanded its range. Amazingly, the cheetah genus of cat evolved right here, and then migrated into Asia before going extinct on its continent of birth.

    Note: Connie has presented these programs in Montessori schools in Minneapolis, Denver, Portland, Columbus, Hartford, and Newton CT, and also in more than 50 Unitarian Universalist Sunday schools around the nation. Connie and her husband, Michael, have also been plenary speakers at two regional gatherings of Montessori teachers in 2003: Oregon and Connecticut.

    Everywhere we present, we also offer students a chance to see the entire 13 billion year "timeline" of cosmic, earth, life, and human history represented in our colorful Great Story Beads. Science and human history come alive for students in this playful way.

       After Connie showed her Great Story Beads to kids at the Children Center Montessori School in St. Paul, Minnesota, the children were inspired to assemble their own loops of story-telling

    We love to offer our services for free during weekdays, provided we are in your area and that we have earned enough money from selling books at our adult programs on evenings and weekends to stay alive on the road.

    For our calendar of future speaking engagements, click: ITINERARY. To CONTACT us:

    Click here for words of praise by K - 12 teachers and students who have enjoyed our programs.

    Universe Story Books for Kids — http://www.universestories.com

    Visit the website by Jennifer Morgan about her book trilogy on the Great Story. Book 1, Born with a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story, was published by Dawn Publications in 2001 and won the National Teachers Award for children's books in 2002. Book 2, From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story, was published in March 2003. See all the well-earned praise for this book series, from educators, scientists, and children!

    For FAMILY ritual during the December holidays, see Connie's Gift of Tiamat script.

    PARENTS and TEACHERS: Self-guided curricula for cosmic and evolutionary education can be viewed and downloaded from this website.

  • "Imprinting Is Not Indoctrination (Connie Barlow's boldest statement yet!)
        Connie subtitled this 9-page essay, "An invitation to parents and religious educators to present a coherent cosmology to our children." Composed as a critique of Dale McGowan's invited lecture at the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists nationwide (in June), Connie calls for a reassessment of the way kids in religious liberally families and institutions are taught "religion". Our postmodern celebration of diversity and advocacy of free choice actually means we deny our children a basic human requirement: "a coherent cosmology (creation story / worldview) through which to enjoy and securely navigate the years of childhood wonder, learning, and innocence." (posted July 2010)

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