Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, honored me with an honorary degree at its Academic Convocation on September 15, 2017. The following is the first installment of a lightly edited version of my talk on that occasion.
“Look at all of that Iowa,” a dear friend said to me, measuring the state with his thumb and pointer finger on his Google Map app. “You could come with me.”
As you all know, I got my start with the NCSE Science Booster Clubs and NCSE itself in Iowa City, Iowa, and I am pretty sure that the state will always have a soft spot in my heart.
So when my friend put out the call for a road trip buddy, I couldn’t help but note that the route to his new job in California was pretty well aligned with the sites of several of NCSE Science Booster Clubs. Thus a professional road trip was born!
At the end of part 1, Marie Story had just refused to answer her students’ questions about why the Colorado River turns blue when it meets the Little Colorado. Here is how she plans to use that observation, or “phenomenon,” to guide her students through a lesson.
Marie Story is one of three teachers who won an NCSE scholarship to raft the Grand Canyon with our own Steve Newton. She sent us a wonderful essay about her experience. I’m going to share some excerpts from her essay in a bit, but there is so much more about Story I’d like to share with you. I was able to chat with her while she was driving with her family to Idaho to get a better view of the eclipse.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that Science Booster Club volunteers rarely encounter open conflict even when we bring evolution and climate change activities to religiously and politically conservative areas.
But the truth is, doing this work is hardly problem-free. As we’ve expanded into increasingly socially, religiously, and politically conservative territory, we do come up against a variety of pressures. Of course, as a social being, I care deeply about feeling accepted just like anyone else. So do the people who come to our events. People don’t want to avoid only outright violence and conflict. Some of our most painful encounters instead involve shame and rejection. When it comes to having conversations about uncomfortable topics, as an SBC leader, I have to be sure to be aware that the people I meet might expect rejection or condescension from someone identifying as a scientist. And I have to guard against reacting to what I perceive as hostility with defensiveness.
Nate Chisholm was one of three teachers who accompanied Steve Newton on the NCSE Grand Canyon rafting trip. This is a blog post about his experiences.
Although it was published a few years ago, I don’t feel embarrassed that I have only recently finished reading Matthew Avery Sutton’s excellent American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (2014). What I feel embarrassed about is that although I bought a copy of the book when it was published, I read a copy from my local public library, because my copy is in a box somewhere. Anyhow, as its title suggests, Sutton’s discussion centers on the attitude of American evangelicals toward the end-times prophecies of the Bible. Accordingly, the book addresses how they thought about and reacted to events of the day, from the Great War through the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, to 9/11, interpreting them through the lens of their premillennarian convictions. Overall, I enjoyed, and learned a lot from, American Apocalypse.
In 2017, we have expanded the NCSE Science Booster Club program with volunteer led clubs across the country. We now have clubs up and running not only in Iowa, but also in Nebraska, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Indiana, and West Virginia. Washington DC, too! Many of the volunteer club leaders have started to bring activities to large events, involving thousands of people. Combined, the clubs are working with an average of 2,500 people every week.
September is fast approaching—which means it’s time for our third annual back-to-school microgrant cycle. Every year NCSE’s Science Booster Club program uses the funds we raise to buy durable equipment for science teachers. Common requests include balances, thermometers, microscopes, and shop tools.