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How the March for Science Became a Movement

How the March for Science Became a Movement
From Wired - April 13, 2018

In January 2017, what started as a subreddit thread about the new White House scrubbing all mention of climate change from its official government website became, just three months later, the single biggest pro-science demonstration in the history of humankind. On April 22, more than a million people across all seven continents took to the streets (and dirt roads and snowfields) to declare themselves, not dispassionately, for the fundamental political value of science.

The idea that the rules that govern society should be based on evidence, not partisan caprice, is an assertion seemingly so noncontroversial that before last years inaugural March for Science, most people had never even thought about raising a latex glove-covered fist in the air to defend it. According to a (non-peer-reviewed) survey, 90 percent of people who showed up that day considered the March for Science their first science-related public demonstration. But for many, it wouldnt be their last.

Thats because in the intervening 12 months, the March for Science has evolved from a collection of defiant Facebook event pages into a national, decentralized network of individuals and organizations fighting for science in their home communities. Which is why MFS organizers arent worried about trying to match last years turnout at the more than 230 marches scheduled around the world for this Saturday. Every day, people are already turning out in less visible, but more impactful, ways.

Valorie Aquino was only trying to distract herself from her archaeology PhD one night last January when she came across a Facebook group that had just been formed that day, called the March for Science. But a week later she was signed on as one of three national co-chairs, and less than three months after that she was leading 100,000 people down the National Mall in the rain, pausing only to take a selfie with Bill Nye. After the march, she flew back to Albuquerque and resumed her life as a student at the University of New Mexico.

Mostly. On the side she was still helping the March for Science figure out its next moves. That summer, she and other members of the MFS national organizing committee wrote a foundation document stating the organizations principles and long-term goals of supporting science in policymaking for the public good. They formalized a framework for connecting with their satellite partners and a grant program to support them. They began planning a summit, to teach science communication and organizing skills to groups from rural areas and underrepresented communities. They formed a board of directors; Aquino joined on as one of them. But it wasnt until the fall that she got to see the power of the movement actually materialize in her own backyard.

In September, New Mexicos Public Education Department unveiled a new set of draft standards for science, technology, engineering, and math education throughout the state. They resembled the Next Generation Science Standards, a highly regarded model for teaching STEM that had already been adopted by 18 states and the District of Columbia. The previous April, New Mexico had actually been slated to approve the NGSS, but then its Republican governor vetoed it and had the education department go back to the drawing board.

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