The cool drizzle did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the marchers assembled in San Pedro Park on Saturday morning. Scientists and science supporters – both local and from outside the region – united to participate in San Antonio’s March for Science.
One of the local organizers who led more than 1,700 attendees on the roughly two-mile march past Scobee Planetarium was Matt Poarch, a science teacher in an area public school.
“Science education is important because our planet – our future – depends on it,” Poarch said. “Science enables us to live the quality lives we all want.”
Marchers chanted, “We love science!” and “Real facts, real science!” They added an analytical twist to the typical marchers’ call of “What do we want?”
Without missing a beat, the response from the crowd came back loud and clear: “Evidence-based science!”
“When do we want it? After peer review!”
Similar marches took place in more than 600 cities worldwide coinciding with Earth Day.
San Antonio March for Science co-organizer Sara Beesley asked marchers to register in order to provide data for national organizers on how many participated, as well as the ZIP codes of those who came. She pointed out that the marchers represented a mix of local and Texas residents, as well as travelers from outside the state.
“We are so encouraged by the community’s support for this march,” Beesley said. “When we arrived [at San Pedro Park] to set up this morning at 8:20 a.m., there were people already here for the march,” which started at 10 a.m.
Many traveled to attend the march in San Antonio from places such as Austin and even further afield. A large group of attendees wearing T-shirts from the Association for Science Teacher Education marched, having traveled from across the U.S. to attend ASTE’s annual conference in San Antonio this week.
ASTE President Dr. Gillian Roehrig came from the University of Minnesota and was surprised to learn about the robust science community represented at the March for Science in San Antonio.
“We’re an official partner of the March for Science,” she said. “Once we realized the march would take place during our annual conference, we made plans to come today.”
Another large group of marchers from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching are in San Antonio to attend the 2017 NARST Annual International Conference this week. NARST is the principal professional organization for scientific education through research, with representation stretching across the globe.
“We were pleased to be a part of this and to see such a diverse participation in the community supporting science at today’s march,” said Dr. Gail Richmond, NARST president-elect and professor at Michigan State University.
After the march, speakers discussed the importance of science in everyday life. Kelly Lyons, a professor at Trinity University, acknowledged that she “never had to advocate for science before,” and how scientists must do a better job of explaining the benefits of scientific training and mindset.
Statistician James Aden talked about the importance of innovations that are derived from science, such as the GPS, camera, and internet all residing on our cell phones – innovations stemming from government-funded research. He also explained the scientific value in understanding risk, which helps drive policy decisions.
“I like bacon, and I understand its risks,” he said. “But I’m not going to deny bacon to anybody [because of its risks].”
Beesley was the last speaker before the crowd dispersed to investigate the various booths set up with scientific activities.
“Science is not good or bad,” she said. “Science is.”
Poarch emphasized how the work is not over for the march organizers.
“We’re going to continue scientific educational outreach and work with other like-minded nonprofits and organizations to ensure that science doesn’t die,” he said.
“This is the beginning of a movement.”