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Dozens celebrate Darwin Day in Garden City

Holly Goldstein, 9, of Locust Valley, shows off

Holly Goldstein, 9, of Locust Valley, shows off her "Neon" face paint while her sister, Marlene, 10, gets her face painted by artist Christopher Agostino at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island's Darwin Day celebration. (Feb. 12, 2012) Credit: Kaitlynn Mannino

Kira O’Boyle wrote intently on the long yellow scroll taped to the wall.

“I’m almost done,” she said to her parents, as she put the finishing touches on an acrostic poem she wrote titled “Science.”

Then O’Boyle, 9, of Floral Park, ran across the room to learn about meteors and meteorites.

It was all part of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island’s fourth annual “Darwin Day” which honors the late evolutionary biologist. The event on Sunday brought about 70 people together to celebrate Charles Darwin’s achievements and scientific experimentation.

The day was filled with educational fun for all ages that would have made Darwin proud. Gabriel Stanley, 13, and other teenaged members of the congregation demonstrated the spirit of experimentation with science fair projects.

“I love science,” said Stanley, as he used the gases from a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to blow up a balloon. Two young girls stopped by to give it a try while Stanley described how the liquids react to form carbon dioxide.

Kristen Morgenstern, 10, and Eric Morgenstern, 14, talked about the pH of different liquids as they handed out testing strips to interested observers.

Even though he was dabbling in chemistry, “I prefer physics,” Morgenstern said.

Sharon Stanley, the organization’s children’s program director, discussed the hesitance of some to participate in the society’s events due to religiousness.

“People misinterpret ethical humanism,” she said. “Darwin Day is about inclusion. We are united by something that we can all believe in — science.”

Dean Everhart, 80, of Smithtown, echoed Stanley’s sentiments. He said he enjoys groups like the Ethical Humanist Society because it’s “a meeting of like-minded people who take evolution seriously.”

Attendants were treated to scientific lectures at Darwin Day, with topics like astronomy and biology.

Dr. Victor Schuster of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine lectured about evolution. He held up pictures of outdated technology, including the Atari video game console, the cassette player and a PDA, to demonstrate how certain devices once fulfilled the demands of the time.

Schuster likened the development of technology to how living organisms also evolve to better adapt to their environment.

“If they [organisms] fit well, they live to see another day,” said Schuster. “A lot of time has led up to who we are.”

Frank Castelli of Bethpage brought his 9-year-old daughter Nicolette to participate in the Darwin Day activities and was happy to see her enjoying educational fun.

“I tried to get my friends to bring their families,” said Castelli, as he watched Nicolette get elbow-deep in a tub of dirt at an activity table, “because this is all for the kids.”

The congregation’s Sunday school and young visitors played a game of “Survival of the Fittest,” during which different tools were used to grab food. The winners were the “creatures” who grabbed the most beans with “hands” made of forks, knives, spoons or no hands at all.

“The same is true for this game as for everything else,” said Stanley to the dozen scrambling children, “we get more done if we work together.”


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