Online trainings for science education advocates and activists

Taking Action icon, by Paula Spence for NCSE, 2012 NCSE conducts monthly webinars (interactive online trainings), and archives those trainings for later viewing. These trainings will cover a range of topics, from media skills, lobbying, and advocacy using social media, to skills for building a local or statewide group of "citizens for science" and for recruiting new members and moving them into leadership positions.

Click through the list of webinars below to review video from the original session, to download the slide decks used in them, and to access other resources related to the presentation.

To sign up for future webinars, fill in the form below.

How to respond to attacks on science education

Webinar conducted November 25, 2013.

Description: What can citizens like you do to respond when science education comes under attack? How can you and other concerned citizens organize to fight back? What can you do to prevent attacks on science education in your community? 

Based on the National Center for Science Education's decades of experience, this workshop will build the skills you'll need to ensure that evolution and climate change education are safe in your schools. When a parent calls wondering why her child was sent home with a creationist pamphlet, or a teacher needs to respond to pressure from parents or administrators to drop lessons on climate change, or when state legislators threaten to write science denial into state laws, NCSE relies on local voices and local experience to fight back. Throughout this training, we'll work through such specific case studies to illustrate the skills and resources science education defenders need.

This first webinar training in a monthly series will survey the skills and resources which concerned citizens need in responding to attacks on science education. Topics will include how to build a network of like-minded people before and during a crisis, how to respond to an attack on science education, how to prevent a crisis from emerging in the first place, and how to prepare for a crisis and make the eventual reaction more effective. The webinar is intended for anyone from experienced activists to relative novices. 

Session leader Josh Rosenau has been Programs and Policy Director at NCSE for six years, working with parents and teachers to resolve anti-evolution attacks and defuse conflicts over climate change education. Before joining NCSE, he was a graduate student in biology in Kansas and was drawn into the battles over evolution in the state's science standards. At NCSE he trains scientists to speak about evolution to potentially hostile audiences, testifies before state board of education meetings, and helps local networks of citizens plan their responses to statewide legislation and and local conflicts.

Lobbying policymakers to defend and improve science education

Webinar conducted December 18, 2013.

Josh RosenauDena Sher, Image via ACLUVic Hutchison, holding a photo of the eponymic Anodonthyla hutchisoniDescription: Bills attacking evolution education and climate change education were filed in almost a dozen state legislatures last year, and a new legislative season starting in January will bring many more.

Stopping bad legislation and encouraging policymakers to support strong science education requires the active involvement of local citizens. When lawmakers hear from their own constituents—the voters who put them in office, the neighbors and colleagues whose good opinion they value—bad bills can be stopped and science education can be made stronger. When local citizens are silent, or can be shouted down by a vocal opposition, dangerous laws are enacted. 

This interactive training will be led by a panel of state lobbying experts. They will discuss their own experience fighting bad bills, and share advice and resources to help citizens like you become active and effective lobbyists on behalf of science education. Experienced activists will have a chance to hone their skills, while those without lobbying experience will learn how to get involved and be most effective without repeating common mistakes of rookie lobbyists. We will discuss how to keep track of a bill's progress, how to identify and befriend sympathetic legislators, and why the most effective lobbying happens well before testimony at a committee hearing. 

The panel will be led by Josh Rosenau, Programs and Policy Director for the National Center for Science Education. He has worked with citizens in dozens of states as they worked to fight dangerous bills. Vic Hutchison is a professor emeritus at U. Oklahoma and founder and past president of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, a group of concerned citizens with a remarkably successful record of blocking anti-science bills in the conservative Oklahoma legislature. Dena Sher fights creationist policies and other attacks on civil liberties as legislative counsel at the ACLU's national office, and previously as state legislative counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Discuss the future of NCSE with Ann Reid, our new executive director

Ann ReidAnn Reid
Eugenie ScottGenie Scott

After 27 years, Eugenie Scott is stepping down as NCSE's executive director. Taking the reins in her stead is Ann Reid. Reid knows that NCSE's work depends on a strong and engaged base of local activists who monitor schools, school boards, and legislatures, and work to defend and support evolution and climate change education, and she hopes you'll join her for an online conversation.

Ann wants to introduce herself to NCSE's community of local activists, to hear more about what you are doing, and to hear more about how NCSE can help. On Wednesday, January 29 at 11 am Pacific (2 pm Eastern), Ann Reid and Eugenie Scott will host an informal, online meet-and-greet, and we hope you'll join in.

What does this historic transition mean for NCSE and for the network of citizen activists which NCSE has worked with and relied upon for so long? What should Ann know about what you and other local citizens for science are doing? What would you like to know about her plans? What did Genie do that Ann should build on, and what can she and NCSE do better in the future? This is your chance to ask your questions, offer guidance, introduce her to this crucial part of NCSE's work, and welcome her to the NCSE family.

Genie will be part of the meeting as well, so don't be shy about asking how she plans to spend her retirement, and whether she already misses NCSE.

To register for the event, sign up through GoToWebinar's site.

Media skills for science education advocates

Robert LuhnRobert Luhn
Liz CraigLiz Craig
Erin HeathErin Heath

When: Thursday, February 27, 2 PM EST/11 AM PST

Description: "Darwin in Danger," screams one headline; "climate change lesson provokes heated response," claims another. When science education comes under attack, how can concerned citizens spread the word through newspapers, TV news, and other media? How can concerned citizens like you ensure that the media gets the story right? How can local networks of science education advocates work with the press to draw in new members and apply pressure to policymakers?

To answer those questions, this interactive training on Thursday, February 27 (2 PM Eastern, 11 AM Pacific) will be led by a panel of media experts who have worked to ensure thorough and accurate coverage of battles over evolution, climate change, and other science classroom flashpoints. They will discuss their own experiences with journalists and media strategy, and share advice and resources to help citizens like you plan for media outreach and be effective spokespeople for science. We will discuss how to connect with local reporters, how to plan for an interview, a press conference, or media coverage for other events. Our panel of media experts will share their own experiences and work through case studies to help you hone your skills and put them to use yourself. 

The panel will include: Robert Luhn, Director of Communications for NCSE; Liz Craig, a freelance writer and board member with Kansas Citizens for Science, and Erin Heath, associate director of government relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Luhn leads NCSE's media outreach efforts, and has been a journalist for 40 years for technology, environmental, and medical publications. Craig led KCFS's media strategy through the 1999 and 2005 battles over creationism before the state board of education and is a freelance writer covering a range of topics. Heath is a former science policy journalist and staffer for scientific and legislative bodies, focused on biomedical policy and the public and civic engagement of scientists and engineers. Moderator Josh Rosenau is a programs and policy director at NCSE.

Presentations and files related to the event are listed below.

Building alliances with clergy and religious communities to advocate for science education

Peter HessPeter Hess
Sally BinghamSally Bingham
Chris StedmanChris Stedman

When: Wednesday, March 26, 2 PM EST/11 AM PST

Description: Reaching out across religious boundaries can be scary for science education advocates. Humanists, atheists, and the nonreligious can feel unsure how to approach clergy or religious communities, while the religious among us can find it awkward discussing religious issues with members of other denominations and religions. Yet we know that religious communities and clergy can be powerful allies when science education comes under attack, and incorporating those voices into pro-science coalitions is essential to defusing the religious appeal of creationism and other forms of science denial, and building bridges with religious policymakers.

To help navigate those issues, a panel of experts in interfaith outreach will lead this interactive online training. They will share their experiences building coalitions to defend evolution, climate change, and related issues, and share advice and resources to help citizens like you build broad and religiously-diverse coalitions. Topics they will discuss include: How do you build interfaith coalitions for science and science education? How can you identify likely religious allies? What are the best ways to bridge religious boundaries?

The panel will include: Peter Hess, NCSE’s Director of Outreach to Religious Communities; Sally Bingham, of Interfaith Power and Light; and Chris Stedman, a Humanist chaplain at Harvard and Yale Universities. Dr. Hess is a Catholic theologian and leads NCSE's efforts to defuse religious conflicts surrounding evolution and climate change. Rev. Bingham is an Episcopal priest and Canon, and is founder and president of the Regeneration Project and its Interfaith Power and Light campaign which coordinates a network of over 15,000 denominations as they work to address climate change. Stedman is a Humanist chaplain, interfaith leader, columnist for Religion News Service, and author of “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.” Moderator Josh Rosenau is a programs and policy director at NCSE.

Resources related to the webinar, including the presentation files that the panelists used, are listed below.

Many participants wanted to see the "lexicon" which Peter Hess discusses in the video, and it is included below as well. Note that it is a work in progress, and we welcome feedback and suggestions for expanding or improving it. You can contact Dr. Hess directly with comments.

Using the National Climate Assessment in Classrooms and Communities

Minda BerbecoMinda Berbeco
Emily CloydEmily Cloyd
Paige KnappenbergerPaige Knappenberger
Amanda RycerzAmanda Rycerz

When: Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 2 PM EDT (11 AM PDT)

Description: How will climate change affect our communities? How can we evaluate news stories about the effects of climate change in your area? What can you do to reach out to your local media and educators, to encourage them to explore the local impacts of climate change?

It can be hard for teachers and others seeking to inform the public about climate change to stay on top of the best science. Not only are climate change deniers invested in obscuring that science, but the science itself is advancingrapidly, making it hard for non-specialists to stay up to date. Fortunately, help is on the way through the National Climate Assessment.

This report from the US government—due in May—evaluates, integrates and assesses observed and projected impacts of climate change across the country, examining how climate change will affect different communities and regions. It will be a tremendous resource for teachers, for parents, and for anyone trying to connect global climate change to local concerns.

To learn how we can make the best use of this tool, join us for a discussion with a panel of climate change specialists. These specialists will address how you can use the report to learn how climate change is already affecting your community, how to bring climate change to the forefront of local media coverage, and how teachers can use the report to bring climate change into classrooms.

Panelists will include: Emily Cloyd, Public Participation and Engagement Coordinator for the National Climate Assessment at USGCRP, the federal agency developing the National Climate Assessment; Paige Knappenberger, media relations associate at Climate Nexus, who tracks media coverage and helps communities connect with media outlets to address climate change; Amanda Rycerz, research officer at Habitat 7, website developers of for NCA. Moderator Minda Berbeco is a Programs and Policy Director at NCSE specializing in climate change, working with parents and educators to support the good teaching of climate change science in public schools.

To register for the event, sign up through GoToWebinar's site.

Debunking and confronting science denial

Josh RosenauJosh Rosenau
Shauna TheelShauna Theel
John CookJohn Cook

When: Wednesday, May 28, 4 PM EST/1 PM PST

Description: How should we respond when a weathercaster on TV says climate change isn't happening, or a school board member says evolution shouldn't be taught, or another parent at the playground repeats long-debunked claims about vaccine risks, or a student in class repeats a canard about the age of the earth? What do we do as individuals who care about science (even if we aren't experts on the science under attack)? How can local networks of science education advocates respond to such instances of science denial?

Our first instinct is usually to try correcting the false statement, but too often that drags us into an endless discussion, or into topics where we don't know enough details to debunk every claim. Fortunately, there are resources out there to help fill in the blanks on common claims, and time-tested techniques to move people away from their false beliefs.

A panel of experts in the field will describe these resources and the techniques they've found effective, and webinar participants will have time to ask questions and practice their debunking skills. Participants without any experience will learn how to avoid common pitfalls and gain the confidence to confront science denial on their own, and experienced debunkers will have a chance to hone their skills and share their own experiences.

The panel will include Shauna Theel from the climate and energy project at Media Matters for America, John Cook of and the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute, and be moderated by NCSE's Josh Rosenau. Shauna will discuss her work addressing media misstatements and how citizens can correct the record. John will describe the debunking resource and the Debunking Handbook he co-authored, and Josh will talk about the experience he's gained debunking science denial at NCSE.

Resources from the webinar are listed below. Anyone interested in debunking creationist claims should especially refer to the Index of Creationist Claims, while those interested in debunking climate change denial claims should check Skeptical Science. The Index of Creationist Claims has app versions available for iOS and Android, and Skeptical Science as an app for iOS and Android.

John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky's Debunking Handbook is a valuable resource for understanding what techniques work best in debunking, and what techniques are likely to inadvertently reinforce bogus beliefs. The webinar panel refer to the Handbook frequently.

Involving students and campus groups in science education advocacy

Jenny MarienauJenny Marienau
Dan PembertonDan Pemberton

When: Monday, June 30, 2 PM EDT/11 AM PDT

Description: Students are some of the most energetic and effective organizers, and are passionate about the importance of science education and resisting denialist attacks on climate change and evolution. Campus groups have members who came together from every corner of the country (and certainly the state), and can quickly bring statewide pressure to bear in response to anti-science policies. They have passion, energy, skills, and a desire to invest those skills in a great cause. They have a direct stake in quality science education and the challenges and opportunities created by climate change and evolution. They are crucial allies for science education advocates.

There are also special challenges with building and maintaining ties to college campus groups. Leaders change regularly and the groups grow, shrink, and change direction as leaders and members graduate.

In this online training, we will explore how to reach out to student groups as partners, how to connect them with local or state-wide networks of off-campus science education advocates, and how to keep that partnership active and successful over the long run. A panel of specialists in building ties to campus groups will describe some of the difficulties that crop up when working with student groups, how to head problems off before they emerge, and how to make the most productive partnerships with student groups. They’ll talk about what they’ve learned from working with students, and what you can learn through this outreach.

The panel will include Dan Pemberton, the California/Nevada Regional Organizer for the Secular Student Alliance, a national organization which supports groups of secular students on college and high school campuses; and Jenny Marienau, U.S. Field Manager for, who coordinates climate activists on campuses across the country. NCSE’s Josh Rosenau will moderate.


Josh NelsonJosh NelsonJosh RosenauJosh Rosenau

When: Wednesday, July 30, 2 PM EDT/11 AM PDT

Description: Online petitions can be a powerful tool for mobilizing public opinion behind a cause and demanding action from those in power. But a successful petition effort involves more than just posting a petition on a site like CREDO Mobilize,,, Democracy For America’s YouPower, or the White House’s own We The People.

In this online training, we’ll demonstrate how to create a petition using one of the widely-used online petition platforms, and discuss how to write a great petition. We’ll explore how to promote it once it’s online, and how to use the petition when meeting with the decision makers you’re targeting. And we’ll talk about ways to work with the people who signed the petition: how to encourage signers to get more involved in the cause and in your own planned actions, and how and when to keep signers informed about the petition’s progress. This training will help advocates without much experience in online organizing learn one of the most versatile and powerful tools available, while experienced activists will learn new approaches and discuss their own experiences.

Josh Nelson—Campaign Manager at CREDO Action—will demonstrate CREDO Mobilize, an online petition system that lets individual grassroots advocates tap into a broad network of likeminded citizens. He’ll demonstrate the website and discuss how to get the most out of it and similar platforms, and share best practices and his experiences gleaned as an online organizer for groups including the National Wildlife Federation, Alliance for Climate Protection, and CREDO. Josh Rosenau—Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education—will host the session and share his experiences with petitions at NCSE, and what he’s seen work well for grassroots science advocates.