The other week I got to see something really amazing: a community where teachers have all the support they need to teach climate change and evolution.

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Nate Chisholm on the Colorado

NCSEteach is a unique resource for science teachers. The monthly NCSEteach newsletter goes out to over 6,000 teachers nationwide and the Scientist in the Classroom program fosters collaborations between professional scientists and educators. This year, three teachers were awarded a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon in 2017, and shared their experience through the NCSE blog (Marie Story, Nate Chisholm, and Robyn Witty).

We are proud of our teachers, and the work they are doing!

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My advice of the day?

Never pass up a chance to hang out with science teachers!

The occasion was the 2017 awards luncheon of the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA). The National Center for Science Education was being honored with the 2017 Distinguished Contributions Award, for our work supporting the California Science Framework review process, and our help in providing teachers with guidance about how to respond to the Heartland Institute’s mailing of misleading climate propaganda to California teachers. It was awfully nice of CSTA to recognize NCSE since in my view, it’s teachers who deserve the accolades.

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Puerto Rican residents walk in flooded streets in Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 22, 2017, following Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico National Guard photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-RamosEvery teacher knows that students take more interest in lessons that relate to things they care about. Well, it’s safe to say that, right now, students in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, care deeply about hurricanes. And students in California care profoundly about wildfires. That means that teachers—as they carry out their vital and underappreciated work giving students a sense of normalcy—have an opportunity to turn their students’ very real and recent experiences into learning opportunities. At NCSE, we’re hoping to gather anecdotal evidence that teachers are using recent events as a bridge to exploring how scientists evaluate the contributions of climate change to extreme weather and weather-related events. We hope to discover that teachers are finding ways to enhance how they cover climate change in their classrooms—once they can finally get back into them.

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If you haven’t read the recent New York magazine article by David Wallace-Wells on climate change, you probably should. I read this viral (and absolutely terrifying) article on July 10, 2017, under somewhat unusual circumstances. As I had it open on my phone, my family and I were driving on the I-15 through Las Vegas.

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Consider, if you will, Bret Stephens’s inaugural column in The New York Times, published on April 28, 2017, under the title “Climate of Complete Certainty.” Owing to Stephens’s past misrepresentations of climate change, the column received a lot of scrutiny—provoking “an unusually large outpouring” of letters to the editor, including one from Merchants of Doubt coauthor Naomi Oreskes, as well as incisive criticism from

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Three months ago, NCSE launched a national expansion of our Science Booster Club (SBC) program. Many of the new clubs have already started holding events, and more are scheduled through the spring and summer. We estimate that in just the first three months of operation, around 3,000 people have participated in SBC events held by volunteer-led clubs in California, West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Nebraska, and Indiana. Events are also scheduled in Kentucky, Virginia, and Oklahoma.

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I spent Saturday wet, cold, but exhilarated nonetheless, on the National Mall, with some 40,000 other participants in the March for Science. NCSE was one of the earliest partners of the march, and our logo was prominently displayed on the big stage. There were dozens of speakers with stories that spanned generations and disciplines. NCSE didn't have a speaking role, but I found myself wondering what I would have said if we did.

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The Silver Lining

The Heartland Institute’s recent stunt of mailing unsolicited packets of propaganda to thousands of teachers across the nation continues to win further bad publicity for the climate-change-denying think tank. (Self-inflicted damage is something of a Heartland specialty: remember its 2013 billboard comparing “believers” in global warming to the Unabomber? As the Los Angeles Times (May 9, 2012) noted, it cost Heartland the support not only of allies who reject the scientific consensus on climate change but also of a number of wealthy corporate sponsors.) But Schadenfreude isn’t the only consequence. The stunt also seems to have invigorated a lot of educators, scientists, parents, environmentalists, and even legislators to speak up and speak out on the need to support climate education.

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    Der Nasenbohrer. Carsten Eggers. Via Wikimedia Commons

    The Heartland Institute is trying to fool teachers. NCSE is fighting back. You can help us.

     

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