Mark McCaffrey's picture

The "Other" NCSE

While the National Center for Science Education can lay original claim to the NCSE moniker, having been around over three decades now, there is another stellar organization that we are often confused with: the DC-based National Council for Science and the Environment.

Over the years I've had the opportunity to work with the other NCSE on a number of projects. In 2009 they were funded by the National Science Foundation on a project called CAMeL (Climate Adaptation and Mitigtation e-Learning) by the same Climate Change Education program that funded the CLEAN project (the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network). I served on the CAMeL advisory board at one point while working on the CLEAN project. We briefly contemplated combining the projects into a CLEAN CAMeL hybrid.

The two projects, which are "spent out" in terms of the original grants but live on via the World Wide Web, are complementary in many respects. While CAMeL developed original content materials, CLEAN reviewed, annotated and offered teaching tips on climate and energy education materials.

NCSE's annual conferences are also notable. They attract scientists and educators from higher education networks, such as the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, who get to rub shoulders with high level policy people from federal agencies. Each year features a different theme. In 2008 the theme was Climate Change: Science and Solutions. It was there that Frank Niepold and I presented the first iteration of the Climate Literacy framework, and where the first meeting of the Climate Literacy Network was held.

This year the theme was Building Climate Solutions, featuring many impressive keynote talks and panel discussions, along with workshops and symposia around a wide range of themes. Highlights included Richard Alley, star of Earth: The Operators' Manual, speaking of how we know science helps people, and the Right Honorable John Gummer (Lord Deben), who provided humorous insights into cross-political collaboration in the UK about climate change.

Education around climate change came up often, not just in the education-specific breakouts. Andy Revkin, who writes the "Dot Earth" blog for the New York Times, moderated one of the panels discussions and encouraged field trips for students to the school boiler room to learn about their school's energy system. He then suggested the two NCSEs should team up for a conference on education. It's an idea I've joked about with their Senior Scientist and Director of Education David Blockstein before, and we'll explore the notion in the coming months once the dust from this conference has settled a bit.

Climate change education is gaining traction and that can only be a good thing. We have a long way to go, but stay tuned for more good news.