March for Science Gains Wide Support Beyond the Scientific Community

Visit the AAAS Force for Science website to follow the latest updates related to AAAS advocacy activities.


 

Carol Fishman (left) is active in promoting conservation in her community of Norwood, Massachusetts. She will march in support of science in Boston on 22 April with her daughter, Robin Borgestedt.| E. A. Petrie

Carol Fishman, 81, has nurtured a lifelong interest in science. As a nature enthusiast and bird-watcher who also is afflicted by asthma, she is concerned about air pollution and the impact humans are having on the global environment.

“The world is beautiful, and it’s a shame what we’re doing to it,” Fishman said in a phone interview.

For some 15 years, Fishman has been a presence on the Norwood, Massachusetts conservation commission, a group entrusted with ensuring the enforcement of local and state regulations governing the preservation of waterways and wetlands.

Fishman will be marching in support of science in Boston on April 22 alongside her daughter, Robin Borgestedt, 52.

Borgestedt, who works as an attorney for the state of Massachusetts, said non-scientists have an important role to play at the upcoming march.

“If scientists are the only ones who march for science,” she said, “that doesn’t say anything good about the rest of us.”

Throughout her childhood, Borgestedt said curiosity was something her parents instilled in each of their four children. She also noted that her father was a dentist and “we didn’t shy away from science in our house.”

Developing a scientific, logical way of thinking has proved essential to Borgestedt’s law practice and can be applied in a variety of fields, she said. Borgestedt described the march as an opportunity to stand up and show that facts matter.

“It’s so important that we all think critically about the world around us in an effort to understand and improve it,” she said.

Across the country, Diane Ferris hopes to impart the same lesson on her 14-year-old son, when they attend the March for Science in Washington, D.C., making the trip from their home in Alameda, California.

Diane Ferris, who works for the University of California, Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute, will be taking her son, Charlie Ferris Weiler, to join the March for Science in Washington.| Photo Courtesy of Diane Ferris

“I’m excited to take my son to the nation’s capital,” Ferris said, “and to show him a community of people who believe in science.”

Her son, Charlie Ferris Weiler, is attending the march for a simple reason: science helps everyone in society. “Science helps us evolve by discovering new technologies and learning more about our universe,” he said. “By not supporting sciences, we won’t be able to make meaningful changes.”

Ferris works as an administrative coordinator at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at the University of California, Berkeley, where she arranges workshops that educate scientists about issues involved in biotechnology and bioethics.

She said that she has always loved the natural world, but has more experience in liberal arts than science. Working with researchers at IGI has afforded Ferris a window into the scientific process.

“Not being a scientist, it’s fun to see how they work,” she said.

Her position has “opened [her] eyes to the way that science gets done,” she said, and shown her the importance of science to our society.

Ferris said that some scientists, wary of appearing to politicize their work, are hesitant to join events like the march. She explained that this only enhances the responsibility of non-scientists to speak out in support of science.

“It takes a global village to make progress,” Ferris said. “Scientists need to do their work and non-scientists need to help them do their work.”

For Ferris, joining the march is a chance to stand up for her beliefs while setting an example for her family.

“I want to do my part but also inspire my son to see that there are a lot of people out there with reason and passion for facts,” she said.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has long had programs designed to help families connect with science, including those participating in the march. Take Science in My Life, for instance, an online program that aims to help students at the elementary, middle and high school level understand the role science plays in their lives.

AAAS’ Education and Human Resources unit launched the project shortly after the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston with the goal of making the March for Science as engaging to children as adults. The program provides free science education resources, including lesson plans for use by teachers at the elementary, middle and high school level. The material shows students that washing machines, clean drinking water and other things that improve their lives are the result of scientific advances.

A video, produced by AAAS, aimed at elementary school students highlights ways in which scientific discoveries have improved our lives, from disease prevention to heating and air conditioning. Children are prompted to cite examples of things they use or do that illustrate the impact of science on their life.

Students then research a specific example of science’s effect on their lives, and produce a poster, infographic or powerpoint presentation that demonstrates the development and importance of the discovery.

The lesson plan, geared toward middle and high school level students, contains similar prompts, inviting students to take inspiration from the video and find examples of science’s impact on their lives. They too are invited to research one of the discoveries and produce a powerpoint presentation, a poster or a video that traces the evolution of the discovery and describes its impact on their lives.

Kirstin Fearnley, who is part of AAAS’ Education and Human Resources group, said “We hope that this will allow kids to go home and talk to their families about science.”

The online site also offers a print-out for children to draw and write about the importance of science in their lives. Families are invited to share their work on Twitter, using the hashtag “#ScienceInMyLife.”

Fearnley expressed hope that the resources will spark conversations about science outside the scientific community. “Everyone involved in the March for Science wants to see the role of science have a more prominent place in our national discussion,” said Fearnley.

Among those already using the program with his students is Gerald Smith, who teaches conceptual physics and advanced chemistry at Bishop McNamara High School in Washington and plans to attend the march.Students who completed the print-out activity sheet illustrated how headphones work through physics – among the examples Smith intends to post to Twitter after spring break, the week after the March for Science “The kids definitely like to probe their brains a lot in terms of seeing science in real life, not just something far-reaching for geniuses to dobut as something that we exist in every day,” said Smith.

Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources Programs at AAAS, said many people take the things  science and engineering helped produce for granted. Science In My Life is an opportunity to change that attitude.

“We want to raise awareness and help people see that science is personal,” Malcom said. “It affects us all.”