Science Booster Clubs: Coast to Coast Update

Three months ago we launched the national expansion of the Science Booster Club program. I’m happy to report that almost all of our volunteers have fulfilled their commitments and are at work on the ground. SBC events have been held in California, West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Nebraska, Washington, DC, Indiana, and of course Iowa, and events have been scheduled in Kentucky, Virginia, and Oklahoma. Here are some highlights from the expansion, starting on the west coast.

In California, Carlina Potthast has taught over five hundred people about climate change through her home base at San Jose State University. Ms Potthast, an undergraduate, is a nontraditional student. She owned her own business for years, and recently made the decision to go to college. She is interested in science communication, and wants to learn how to reach people about climate change. In her first few months volunteering with NCSE, she has definitely shown herself up to the task!

Throughout the Ohio River Valley, the Ohio River Valley Climate Action Group has been presenting SBC materials to middle schools, high schools, and city councils across the region, reaching many hundreds of people at seven separate events. This passionate group of volunteers, with Eric Engle as our contact person, is composed mostly of retirees who want to make their region, which is struggling in the throes of the opiate epidemic, a place where their grandchildren will thrive. We are so lucky to work with this committed, deeply involved group of community activists.

Tara Schremser will be using her community connections to provide weekly programming at Indiana farmers’ markets starting in late May. She’s been practicing and developing her presentation skills by using SBC materials to teach kids about climate change at her local middle school. Ms. Schremser, the mother of three young children, has business experience and is passionate about science education, but has never done this kind of outreach before. We are grateful for her support! She is a great example of how one person who cares about a cause can get the ball rolling in their community.

Farmers’ markets are a popular venue for upcoming events at the SBC expansion sites, with our volunteer teams led by Dr. Selmecki of Creighton University in Nebraska and Dr. Kaul of the University of Kentucky. Both target day and night market events with their graduate students. By working with young families in the day and adults at night, these teams will gather information on how to best tailor content to these different audiencesand how to best recruit volunteers.

Another place where SBC content will be provided is public libraries. Rob Marken, Jr, who is leading our efforts in Virginia, has just worked out an arrangement to provide regular, advertised programming! Public libraries have been great partners in Iowa, and we’re glad to see more SBCs connecting with library resources.

Our volunteer leaders are doing amazing work getting off the ground in their communities. And our SBC sites supported by NCSE staff are going like gangbusters.

Dr. Brian Pinney, of Des Moines, Iowa, joined NCSE's staff in January to support our Iowa expansion projects. In this short time, he’s already scheduled to work with over ten thousand people in central Iowa! He’s adding more events all the time, from the Des Moines Climate March on April 29th, to county fairs across the region throughout June and July.

Our volunteers in Iowa City continue to provide programming across eastern Iowa. They’ve been participating in at least one major event every month throughout 2017. In the month of April alone they had ten community outreach events scheduled, with audiences large and small, at public schools, libraries, and major festivals. Since the beginning of the year, they have worked with almost twenty thousand Iowans. Their hard work has recently attracted the attention of Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources. Our club, after two years of service in Eastern Iowa, has been asked to apply for state-level funding for our outreach on climate change.

NCSE’s Claire Adrain-Tucci is building a strong, diverse SBC over on the east coast. She has events on the calendar serving underprivileged students in the DC metropolitan area, and will also be working the White House lawn in an upcoming major event. Her events in early 2017 are also reaching into five-figure audiences, and will give us important new perspectives on work in urban areas. We have feet on the ground in all sorts of places, but only Ms. Adrain-Tucci is working in a dense urban area. We value her experience and insights as she charts the benefits and challenges of this new territory!

Looking back on the first season of the SBC program’s national expansion, I’m so proud of our many leaders and many volunteers’ determination, growth, and success. Working together, we will reach so many of our fellow Americans in 2017. As our networks expand, and as the weather gets nicer, we’ll be outside working with even more people at late spring and early summer events.

We’re also due to send new materials to our expansion leaders. Our first kit focused on climate change. Our next kit, developed in response to the creationist exhibit at the Iowa State fair in 2016, empowers the public to resist misinformation by teaching genetics in the context of evolutionary theory. Sounds complicated, right? Don’t worry. Our “Genetics and Evolution” kit has been extensively field tested in Iowa, and is popular and accessible to general audiences. How could it not be, when people get to learn about selection and drift through predating upon innocent candy populations?

I’ll update you again soon! If you want to get in touch with me about the SBC program, email me at schoerning@ncse.com. And if you want to support us, ten bucks from you equals a hundred people on the ground for us.

Emily Schoerning
Short Bio

Emily Schoerning is the former Director of Community Organizing and Research at NCSE.

schoerning@ncse.com
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