2016 was a pretty intense year for NCSE’s Science Booster Club program. We explored lots of new ways to engage with people, and managed to reach over 54,000 people in Iowa in person with our hands-on evolution and climate change activities.
In December 2016, we’ve been engaged in a big push for expansion, thanks to the funds and connections supporters contributed in a huge outpouring of generosity following the election in early November. As we promised our donors at the time, we are now moving westwards in a big way.
We’ve started a new club in Grinnell, Iowa, home of Grinnell College. The students there are incredibly enthusiastic about bringing our programming to the rural communities that surround their town. And we’ve laid the groundwork for a new club in Des Moines, the state capital. From there, we should be able to push further west in 2017, to connect with friends in the Council Bluffs/Omaha metropolitan areas. Nebraska or bust!
The strength of our presence around our original home base of Iowa City is also continuing to increase. We now provide regular programming in partnership with civic fixtures such as the Iowa City Public Library, which we'll work with to develop a two-day public festival for climate change education this spring. We expect to see at least 5,000 people at that event. We also recently developed an agreement with the Iowa Children’s Museum to participate in its events and festivals, thus adding at least 5,000—probably more like 12,500!—people to our audience.
We have also connected with the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, an organization that helps coordinate STEM events throughout the state. This connection will give us access to a significant number of rural festivals, allowing us to get a foot in the door at pretty much every rural community we can physically reach.
Looking back on where we started, it’s amazing how we’ve grown. Instead of writing more, I thought I’d make some maps to show you where we started, where we are now, and where we plan to go next.
Area of Influence, July 2015
Area of Influence, December 2015
Area of Influence, July 2016
Area of Influence, December 2016
Projected Area of Influence (Conservative), July 2017
I’ve been here in Iowa all this time, and it is still surprising to see how quickly our operation has grown. (If this were a chicken franchise, I’d be rolling in cash by now!) And these maps don’t show the other states where NCSE Science Booster Clubs are burgeoning. Here’s a final map, showing you what states in the US now have some booster club presence, as volunteers work to get their communities organized. It’s important to note that in January 2016 we didn’t have a single operation running outside of Iowa. Also please note that the stars have nothing to do with the size of the volunteer effort—just the size of the state!
How far will the Science Booster Clubs spread, and how successful will they have been, at the end of 2017? I don’t know. At this point, I can’t even imagine. But we’ll keep working hard every day, to bring high-quality science engagement to our communities, and to reach out to our fellow Americans with optimism and joy—those so often overlooked essential elements of the scientific endeavor—which are the key resources that have fueled our growth. And you can help, of course, by starting a Science Booster Club in your community or by donating to support the program.