March for Science
The Seattle #MarchForScience took place on a very appropriate day in April, Earth Day. There were numerous speakers at the rally leading up to the march, and one of the main messages was an apolitical defense of our planet’s future. The intent was not to be pro “Democrat” or pro “Republican” but pro science in defense of the future of our environment, natural resources, and reality that Earth is the only planet we’ve got—as one sign said “there is no ‘planet B’” for a plan B. I will concede that there were a number of signs criticizing President Trump, but in all fairness I think this is largely due to his efforts to undermine science, factual evidence, and environmental protection of any kind. There are many Republican who do not support this, and as we build upon Republican President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation and National Parks legacy then we would do well to welcome all allies, regardless of politics, in a diverse defense of scientific reason and our children’s future.
Next Generation Science Standards
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were one of the other main messages. Several of the speakers mentioned these and the efforts we are undertaking in education to implement these standards in classrooms across America. Better science standards result in better scientists, and, perhaps more importantly, in a more scientifically literate population. At the end of the day, we’re not looking to turn everyone into a scientist, but if they could all become well-informed voters then that would be nice.
NGSS for the Next Generation
With the NGSS and the next generation in mind, I’d like to diverge some from an actual description of the March for Science. Plenty of people will write about the day’s events and tell you their stories via social media and the news, but let’s instead march through the actual science standards themselves together. Or, at least the ones that are relevant to the day’s events. In this sense, I’m referring to one of the three dimensions of the NGSS: The Science and Engineering Practices. You see, we can have a great discussion about the other two dimensions: the Crosscutting Concepts provide common threads across all science disciplines and the Disciplinary Core Ideas are the “what” of science like the fact that our human behavior impacts the Earth’s climate and as a result our climate is changing. The Practices, however, are how scientists go about doing science. They are also how citizen scientists, like all of today’s marchers, go about gathering information, communicating that information, forming conclusions, and then defending those conclusions. Surprisingly, that’s also part of science.
Science and Engineering Practices
Most of what scientists do does not mirror the mad scientist in the lab depicted by Hollywood. Scientists spend a significant amount of time reading, writing, researching, and communicating in general. One of the main ways that scientists approach science is by asking questions. Asking questions is one of the fundamental ways that we communicate and is one of the most important Science and Engineering Practices. Teachers constantly question students, and students need to learn how to effectively ask questions. Recently, someone asked about the idea of having a march for science. There are many more questions that resulted in this march. What happens if we begin to disregard and defund science? What happens to our environment if we ignore what scientists are trying to tell us? What future will our children inherit if we do not act on the question of climate change now? If we’re wrong and there’s nothing we can do then we’re stuck anyway, but my main question is how can we use this as an excuse not to try? How can we look our children in the eyes and tell them that we didn’t try to save their planet? I cannot tell me daughter that I selfishly squandered her future because it was inconvenient to do otherwise.
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Another critical Science and Engineering Practice is Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information. Scientists need to learn and gather information about what they are studying, evaluate the information’s validity, and then communicate that information with other scientists. These are skills that all students need in order to become scientifically literate citizens. The March for Science is about obtaining information that some politicians are trying to hide or destroy. It’s about evaluating what politicians and the media tell us in order to determine validity while thinking both critically and independently. Finally, marching is about communicating to the world that truth, facts, and evidence supersede political opinions. They are not partisan or inconvenient ideas to be pushed aside by political agendas or denied without any proof, but a reality that must be addressed.
Claim, Evidence, Reasoning
“Claims, Evidence, Reasoning” or “CER” is not actually a practice, but a critical way of approaching two practices: Constructing Explanations and Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Eventually the goal of a scientifically literate person is to answer questions by constructing explanations. Once an explanation is proposed then it must be peer-reviewed or tested by engaging in argument from evidence. Students need to know how to do this in all subject areas in order to be independently minded, critical thinkers, and responsible consumers of information. Concerned citizens are marching for science because they are tired of baseless claims being made by politicians who claim their opinions are on equal footing with actual facts. It stands to reason, that there must be evidence to support a valid statement. If there’s no evidence then it’s unreasonable to claim something as true. Marchers are making claims of their own with irrefutable evidence in a very reasonable manner.
Life Science Lessons
At the end of the day, life and the work of life goes on after the March for Science. The work of the work is how concerned citizens organize moving forward. How are you asking questions, obtaining information, and engaging in constructive dialogue that helps protect our collective future? Because, ultimately, we’re all in this together until the end.
Resources and Helpful Links
#MarchForScience Website: https://www.marchforscience.com
Seattle #MarchForScience Website: https://www.marchforscienceseattle.org
Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): https://www.nextgenscience.org
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: https://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/Appendix%20F%20%20Science%20and%20Engineering%20Practices%20in%20the%20NGSS%20-%20FINAL%20060513.pdf
National Science Teachers Association: http://www.nsta.org
Seattle Science Center: https://www.pacificsciencecenter.org
Seattle Science Center donation and volunteer page: https://www.pacificsciencecenter.org/support/
Washington STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math): http://www.washingtonstem.org
Washington STEM donation page: http://www.washingtonstem.org/Get-Involved/Give#.WQv3zlKZO8U
Washington Math, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA): http://www.washingtonmesa.org
Washington MESA support page: http://www.washingtonmesa.org/supporting-mesa.html
Previous NGSS According to Science Cat Post: http://corelaboratewa.org/the-three-dimensions-of-the-ngss-according-to-science-cat/
Previous Star Wars NGSS Post: http://corelaboratewa.org/ngss-according-to-star-wars/