The first time I heard of NCSE was in a mass email from one of my professors. This particular professor sent tons of these emails over the semester with potential job opportunities for us experience-hungry students. Most of the time when I researched the positions being offered, I would find requirements like “recent graduate” or “entry-level position, two years of experience required”. It was incredibly frustrating to continually get excited about snazzy research positions or internships only to realize halfway through the application that I did not meet the basic requirements. Wasn’t anyone willing to take a chance on a first year like me?
When I heard about NCSE’s internship, I nearly wrote it off as another tease. Of course they wanted someone with all of the qualifications of a recent graduate—years of experience, a degree under the belt—just like everyone else. I visited NCSE’s website anyway, and I’m glad I did. There I found NCSE’s mission statement, “The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education.”
When I read NCSE’s mission statement I couldn’t help but nod my head. You may be surprised to hear that even as a girl who grew up in Silicon Valley, home to Facebook, Google, Instagram, eBay, and countless high-tech firms, I recognized this need. Growing up in my neighborhood, surrounded by engineers and scientists, STEM was king. And yet I have the distinct memory of my biology teacher standing in front of the class before our evolution unit and announcing that although there is undeniable evidence supporting the theory of evolution, students with moral or religious objections would not have to accept evolution as truth, but they would have to understand it to do well on exams. Yes, this happened in Silicon Valley.
Climate change wasn’t much better. Hardly anyone I knew was a climate change denier, yet very few of my friends, myself included, composted, drove energy efficient cars, carpooled, or took simple sustainability measures. During our middle school Earth sciences class, we learned about the greenhouse effect and a bit about global warming, but none of our teachers explicitly taught climate change. There was very little urgency in the science we learned. It felt like the goal was to do well on tests rather than to absorb and apply knowledge in our daily lives.
NCSE’s mission is important—not just to me, but for every student in this country, and every science teacher. I’m so glad NCSE took me on as an intern so I can be part of this movement to ensure the upcoming generation is learning relevant information about today’s most serious issues. Stay tuned to hear more from me this summer as I dig in as NCSE’s newest intern!
Yayla Sezginer will be a second year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley this fall. She is studying Molecular Environmental Biology (MEB) and hopes to pursue a double major in MEB and Marine Science.
Photo of fireworks over the University of California, Berkeley, from Daniel Parks via Flickr.