Thank you! You’re awesome!

August 15th, 2017 by Brandon Haught

There are now 14 Florida classrooms and about 1,831 students who are going to have extra help when it comes to science education because of our team effort. Our 4th annual fundraising campaign through Donors Choose raised a total of $2,943. You gave $2,243 and then we here at Florida Citizens for Science pitched in our promised $700. That blows away our previous fundraising record of $1,775 in 2009. Wow!

Here are the amazing projects we funded together:

Palmetto Grades 6-8: a document camera, graphic novels about hurricanes, and marbling art supplies to visually learn about the science of hurricanes and create a work of art representing the hurricane storm formation.

Plant City Grades 9-12: students will learn how to reconstruct a crime scene and develop suspects after evidence is recovered. Students will learn to determine the caliber of bullets, determine the trajectory/path the bullet traveled, identify striations left on recovered bullets, and will later dust for latent finger prints that may have been left on the cartridge.

Ft Lauderdale Grades 6-8: modeling clay will be used to create 3-D models of Earth’s features to planets and other celestial objects in outer space. We’ll use the plaster to investigate how fossils are preserved on Earth for hundreds of thousands of years. Having these supplies means less time with our heads in the book and more time creating and exploring.

Tampa Grades 3-5: students will learn how to measure and read exact amounts of liquid such as in an environmental investigations testing water samples. They will use the tools to understand water displacement when adding a solid material. Graduated cylinders are critical for measuring liquid volumes.

Miami Grades 6-8: students will be able to grow bacteria, look at cells and organisms, and see and work with models of the solar system in a hands on way. The materials will provide opportunities for my students to explore science concepts, test hypotheses, and learn through observation.

Orlando Grades 3-5: students will be able to complete labs and experiments so they can connect their learning to what they are doing scientifically. They will have safety glasses, beakers, different types of scales, magnifying glasses and a microscope to complete the activities accurately and safely. They will also have different types of magnets so they can manipulate the magnets to show how they can attract and repel.

Miami Grades 3-5: having complete STEM kits and books, students will have all the materials they need, to do projects and have extra materials for other projects. The STEM kits will be used to engineer and create projects. The students will need the writing and science journals to write about, design, create, and redesign their STEM projects.

Naples Grades PreK-2: The “larvae” (caterpillars) are one way that our students not only get hooked on science, but also understand one of those mystifying processes of science. How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly? It sounds like make believe to them until they get to see it.

Brooksville Grades 6-8: Mini Stream Tables will engage students and allow them to have hands-on interactions with weathering, erosion and deposition so they can complete their challenge successfully. Students who are engaged and can actually interact with the material will want to learn!

Seffner Grades 3-5: Most classrooms are not equipped with the materials needed to provide for safe experimentation, and just reading about electricity doesn’t give students the best learning experience. Being able to actually create open and closed circuits as well as figuring out how switches work through hands-on investigations will ensure that students will have a better understanding of the content that they are expected to learn. It will allow for greater application later.

Palm Bay Grades 3-5: students will be able to learn how to use various weather instruments and make predictions about the weather. Learning to use tools has become lost to this generation of people who can simply turn on the television or a computer to find the answer to something. Students will dig deeper by taking learning outdoors to compliment the learning in the classroom. Students will explore, record and chart the weather in their garden using proper weather instruments.

Leesburg Grades PreK-2: students will be able to enjoy pouring, washing, experimenting, and splashing (just a little!) in the safe environment of their very own classroom. It will be an important tool for science experiments and be a fun setting for imaginative students to pretend to wash cars or animals or create an ocean ecosystem. All of these experiences will allow students, who come from varied backgrounds that include different primary languages, to communicate with their classmates while they learn and play!

Navarre Grades PreK-2: This raised garden will offer students from all walks of life the ability to build, plant, water, nurture and harvest herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Gardening allows surprises to arise when insects land in the vicinity or when the weather surprises everyone and disrupts the plan for the day. These surprises show that nature is in control and they give students immediate and personal reasons for wanting to know the answers to pressing questions.

Tallahassee Grades PreK-2: On August 21st, 2017, a very rare event will occur. A total solar eclipse will occur for the United States to view. In Tallahassee, FL, we will receive 90% totality of the eclipse. The peak time is estimated to be about 2:40 PM. Our students may not have another chance to experience this natural occurrence for another 30 years. We will be partnering with another grade level to share this experience with. The students will be able to interact with the older students/science buddies and talk about the amazing phenomena happening before their eyes. With solar viewing glasses, students can view the eclipse safely, gain a science buddy to talk to and of course remember their ultimate hands on experience!

Let’s start off the school year right!

August 13th, 2017 by Brandon Haught

My room is all set up and ready for about 160 high school freshmen (over the course of 6 class periods) to get excited about environmental science starting Monday. I was in my room all day Saturday putting on the final touches. I could spend all of today in there, too, but I don’t want to get burned out before school even starts. I love teaching environmental. It’s so relevant to every single student’s life and only the most stubborn of teens are going to fail to see that when I’m done with them. Heck, even those stubborn ones will probably see the light but just refuse to admit it.

I’m ready to go. However, there are some teachers who are still wanting to work some science magic on their students but they don’t have the supplies to do so. Yes, I’m talking about our 4th annual fundraising campaign through Donors Choose. We’re trying to help a few Florida teachers obtain the materials they need to make science come alive in their classes.

Your giving so far has funded three classroom projects. One class will be learning about insect life cycles through caterpillars. Another group of lucky kids will learn about environmental science because they will now have hands-on experiences in new gardens. And young students will be able to safely view the upcoming solar eclipse because of the special glasses you funded for them.

But we’re short of our goal! There are five other projects that need your help to cross the finish line. The students want to learn about electricity, erosion, weather and water. As I said at the beginning of this post, school is back in session. The kids are walking through those classroom doors now.

Let’s give them a good year of science. Please give at our Donors Choose Giving Page. Florida Citizens for Science will match your donations up to a total of $700.

And excuse me while a show off a bit. Here’s a few pictures of my room, all ready to go!

Guest Post: The IMPACT Summer Program

August 2nd, 2017 by Brandon Haught

I’m happy to present this guest post submitted by Amanda I. De Cun, MPS Candidate Marine Ecosystems and Society, Intern with the Department of Ocean Sciences at RSMAS University of Miami.

The STEM field has become increasingly popular and important in the past few years. Encouraging grade school students to participate in STEM activities have been shown to make an impact in their chances of high school graduation and being accepted into college. In fact, one program has seen first-hand what a difference STEM immersion can do for a student.

One program that has made an incredible impact on Miami-Dade County high school students since its inception in 1999, has been the Frost Science Upward Bound Math and Science program (UBMS), funded by the U.S. Department of Education. UBMS understands the importance of science in the classroom, but has also realized that under-resourced students often miss out on a science focused curriculum in school as well as lacking science role models in their lives. To defeat this problem, the UBMS program enlists students from Title 1 schools in the Miami area and enrolls them in a four year, after school, weekend and summer program geared towards STEM curiosity. The program inspires these under-resourced students the opportunity to see a world of post-secondary study, motivating them to complete high school and become the first generation in their family to be accepted into college.

The UBMS program provides these students with access to mentors, interactions with scientists and technology as well as a six-week summer program called IMPACT (Integrated Marine Program and College Training). In partnership with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, these students are able to immerse themselves with marine science curriculum through activities with the university such as shark tagging expeditions, outdoor field experiences and field trips to state parks and marine sanctuaries and conduct research projects mentored by graduate students and M-DCPS teachers.

The IMPACT curriculum always includes the theory, practice and tools associated with different subjects ranging from oceanography, marine biology, geology, and ecology, meteorology and resource management. At the end of their six-week summer program, the students are given the opportunity to present their projects and are recognized by museum staff, scientists, families and peers for their dedicated accomplishments.

This summer, I was given the opportunity to present and give a lecture to these students during their six-week IMPACT program at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. As a current RSMAS graduate student, I am fulfilling my internship requirement under the direction of Dr. Vassiliki Kourafalou, a professor in the Ocean Science department, who is currently doing research with funding from the GoMRI project (Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative) which is a “10-year independent research program created to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies” (Gulf of Mexico Research Intiative 2013). In easier words, to understand the effects of oil on the environment and how to be better prepared in case another oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon explosion were to happen again.

During my internship, I spent most of my time researching and understanding the work related to the GoMRI project, created lectures and presentations for high school classrooms and attended outreach events. I felt really lucky to be given the opportunity to present to these IMPACT students, because coming from a previous career as a high school biology teacher, I understand the importance of communicating science to young people, while making them interested in it at the same time. To be invited by the outreach coordinators at IMPACT and asked to be a small part of an amazing program like UBMS, was extremely gratifying. Knowing I made a positive impact on these students is a feeling that every teacher, volunteer, outreach coordinator, mom, dad, whoever it may be, wants to feel and experience.

With over 1,000 students participating in their program since 1999, 98% have graduated high school and 95% have been accepted into a post-secondary institution of study, with the majority pursuing STEM fields (UBMS 2017). The UBMS program has made it extremely clear that when you provide students with the necessary tools to succeed, they will, in fact succeed.

Lots of news

August 1st, 2017 by Brandon Haught

There’s all sorts of interesting news items related to science education lately! I’ll list them here by general topic …

Instructional Materials Law

From the Gainesville Sun
Carl Ramey: State continues assault on public schools

Equally problematic are the amendments enacted this year to Florida’s education code; specifically, the section that permits challenges to “instructional materials” used by public schools. Previously, challenges were limited to parents with children in the school district. Now, any resident of the county with an axe to grind can challenge the appropriateness of anything (textbooks, videos, software, etc.) having “intellectual content” and used as a “major tool” for instruction.

In short, a limited, parent-centric complaint procedure has been turned into an open-ended, highly accessible platform for sectarian pressure groups — more interested in advancing a particular belief than how certain material might impact a particular child. It opens up the possibility of coordinated campaigns by groups seeking to ban material deemed objectionable on religious or political grounds (such as evolution and global warming).

From the journal Bioscience, published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences
Evolution Education and State Politics

A bill passed by the Florida legislature and signed into law by Governor Scott makes it easier to remove evolution education or any other “controversial” subject from a district’s curriculum. Any taxpayer who lives in the school district can file a complaint to the school board and will have the opportunity to argue why instructional materials are not “objective, balanced, noninflammatory, current,” or “free of pornography.”

Although Florida House Bill 989 did not specifically mention evolution, advocates cited the testimony of some supporters as evidence of the bill’s intentions. Some advocates for the measure wrote, “I have witnessed students being taught evolution as a fact of creation rather than a theory,” and “I have witnessed children being taught that global warming is a reality.”

From New Scientist
Feedback: Florida turns to crowdsourcing science classes

The US has long been pioneering efforts to rejoin church and state. A recent innovation is found in Florida, where state governor Rick Scott signed into law legislation allowing any resident to challenge educational material used in public schools. Passed under the auspices of empowering parents, critics warn that the bill will allow people to target the teaching of evolution and climate change in classrooms.

Feedback can only assume that the Sunshine State’s mathematics professors will soon have to find a way to make pi equal 3, sex educators teach the controversy over stork deliveries, and rockets blasting off from Cape Canaveral recalibrate for a geocentric model of the cosmos.

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Textbook case: New law lets public challenge school materials

“Our concern is that school boards across the state will be forced to give a lot of time and effort and perhaps even some finances to field complaints from citizens that don’t know a lot about science themselves,” he said.

Though his area of expertise is science, Haught expressed disappointment that educators in other disciplines haven’t spoken out against the law.

“Where are the history folks?” he asked. “Where are the civics defenders?”

From NPR’s Morning Edition
New Florida Law Lets Residents Challenge School Textbooks

Members of Florida Citizens’ Alliance have other concerns, including how some textbooks discuss Islam. Others take issue with science textbooks and how they deal with two topics in particular: evolution and climate change.

Flaugh says the law, which was signed by the governor on June 26, is intended to make sure scientific theories are presented in a balanced way.

“There will be people out there that argue that creationism versus Darwinism are facts. They’re both theories,” he says.

From the Washington Post
Florida’s education system — the one Betsy DeVos cites as a model — is in chaos

Gov. Scott also recently signed a new law that has alarmed people who care about science education. Known as H.B. 989 and targeted at the teaching of climate change and evolution, it empowers those who want to object to the use of specific instructional materials in public schools. Now, any resident can file a complaint about instructional material; it used to be limited to parents with a child in the schools.

Recruiting Teachers

From the Orlando Sentinel
Commentary: School districts tasked with filling math, science teacher shortage

The numbers of first-time test-takers for high-school teaching certifications in biology, chemistry and Earth/space science stayed constant or declined a bit during the same three-year period. In physics, that number dropped by one-third.

The Colleges of Education at the state’s universities aren’t even coming close to meeting the demand. According to an estimate in the Critical Teacher Shortage Area report for 2017-18 prepared by the Florida Department of Education, there were 214 vacancies for chemistry and physics teachers in Florida’s public schools in 2016-17.

From the Sun Sentinel
South Florida schools search for new ways to find teachers

Palm Beach County schools are also considering some less obvious candidates: athletes.

The school district has been attending job fairs that colleges host for student athletes. Their dreams may be to play in the NFL or NBA, but until that happens, they may want to teach in Palm Beach County, La Cava said.

“A lot of them have degrees in math and science and we can help them get certified,” La Cava said. “There are opportunities for them to teach and be coaches.”

Good News about Science Education

From the Panama City News Herald
Rockettes and CSI: FSU PC camps foster love of physics

Across a walkway in the Holley Center, Sonya Livingston Smith, a retired Rockette, and Denise Newsome, a teacher at Deane Bozeman School, were working to convincingly disguise a physics lesson as a dance class. While dancers practiced their turns and pliés, Newsome used motion sensors to track how their arm motions increased or decreased the velocity of their spins.

“It’s a great way to help the students not be scared of physics,” said Newsome, who describes herself as a science nerd with a dancing background.

This is the first year FSU PC has held a Physics of Dance camp, and Newsome hopes to grow the two-day offering into a full week in the future.

And let’s not forget we here at Florida Citizens for Science are running a fundraising campaign to help teachers obtain needed science supplies.
4th Annual science education fundraiser LAUNCH!

FCS launched its 4th annual fundraising campaign today by creating a Giving Page at Donors Choose. On that page you can choose from several projects across the state to help fund. FCS will match dollar for dollar total donations up to $700, essentially doubling your gift. This is on top of similar offers from corporations like Orkin and Tom’s of Maine highlighted on some of our chosen projects’ pages.

A few donations have come in these first few days of the campaign, which is awesome! But we need a lot more if we hope to get all of the selected classroom projects funded before students start walking in the classroom doors. Please help us out.

If the above items sound familiar to you, then it’s probably because you follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’re posting the newest news items there nearly every day. It’s well worth liking and following us!

 

4th Annual science education fundraiser LAUNCH!

July 29th, 2017 by Brandon Haught

Florida Teachers Need Your Help Supporting Science Education

The best way to learn about science is to actually do science. But giving students that opportunity for hands-on exploration takes money. Teachers are constantly dipping into their own pockets to supply materials for their students, but even with that dedication and sacrifice some goals remain out of reach. Florida Citizens for Science is asking you to team up to help at least nine Sunshine State teachers to bring science education alive in their classrooms.

FCS launched its 4th annual fundraising campaign today by creating a Giving Page at Donors Choose. On that page you can choose from several projects across the state to help fund. FCS will match dollar for dollar total donations up to $700, essentially doubling your gift. This is on top of similar offers from corporations like Orkin and Tom’s of Maine highlighted on some of our chosen projects’ pages.

Our previous fundraising campaigns donated a total of $3,412, helping 22 teachers with science education supplies.

Here is what the teachers we will help this year have to say:

A middle school teacher in Brooksville said, “My students love hands-on science, and I love providing them with project-based inquiry science lessons that allow them to explore and think for themselves. […] Students who are engaged and can actually interact with the material will want to learn!”

An elementary school teacher in Seffner said, “Fifth graders are required to learn about electricity. Experimenting is the best way to learn. Most classrooms are not equipped with the materials needed to provide for safe experimentation, and just reading about electricity doesn’t give students the best learning experience.”

An elementary school teacher in Miami said, “The incoming fifth grade students have shown an interest in STEM education and the 5th Grade STEM Club for the next school year. Our science classroom is completely outdated and needs a lot of STEM science materials and manipulatives.”

All donations are accepted and appreciated, regardless of the amount. The money raised stays right here in our state, benefiting our students’ science education.

The schools we will help are:

  • Woodville K-8 School, Tallahassee
  • West Navarre Primary School, Navarre
  • Treadway Elementary School, Leesburg
  • Royal Palm Charter School, Palm Bay
  • Colson Elementary School, Seffner
  • Powell Middle School, Brooksville
  • Shadowlawn Elementary School, Naples
  • Silver Bluff Elementary School, Miami
  • Village Elementary School, Sunrise

If we surpass our fundraising goals, which we have done in years past, we will add more schools to our Giving Page. We will gladly accept your recommendations once we reach that point.

What are you waiting for? Start giving!

(The picture at the top of this blog post is from a project we helped fund for a teacher in Sarasota during one of our previous fundraising campaigns.)

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4th Annual science education fundraiser LAUNCH!
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Florida Citizens for Science News Release
Contact: Brandon Haught; bhaught@flascience.org

This is not “needless fretting”

July 29th, 2017 by Brandon Haught

An editorial was published in a few papers recently, including the Gainesville Sun, opining that Florida’s new instructional materials law isn’t something to get all worked up about: Needless fretting over textbook law.

The doomsdayers among us believe Scott and the measure’s supporters have thrust open an educational Pandora’s box, exposing school districts to the “anti-science” whims of flat-earthers and climate-change deniers.

To them we reply: Deep breaths, folks, deep breaths.

There are some elements of the editorial I agree with. I agree that this law won’t wipe science subjects like evolution and climate change out of the state’s public schools. I agree that a lot of the news coverage, especially the headlines attached to the stories, are overblown and sensationalist. I believe trouble will likely only pop up in a few spots around the state where small yet vocal groups are already causing headaches.

But I disagree with the overall tone of the editorial, which is essentially saying don’t worry, this is no big deal.

This law probably isn’t a big deal when you look at it from a statewide perspective. But it’s a huge deal when you look at it from the local school district perspective. Even if only one school district decides to allow anti-science instructional materials into their school (due to a sympathetic school board majority or relentless pressure that eventually forces a school board into compromise), that’s going to potentially impact the education of hundreds or thousands of students for years. This is not just alarmist hype. I wrote the book on this topic. It’s happened before here in the Sunshine State and the chances of it happening again are now very high with the passage into law of the instructional materials bill and the religious liberties in schools bill.

Keep in mind that the group mentioned in the editorial, the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, took credit for writing the bill. They took credit for recruiting legislators to sponsor the bill. They took credit for helping to successfully navigate the bill through all of its committee stops and votes. They took credit for helping it become law.

Why in the world would they go through all of that effort?

The law’s authors and supporters said:

“Darwin’s theory is a theory, and the biblical view is a theory, and our kids should be taught both in a balanced way,” [Florida Citizens’ Alliance’s Keith Flaugh] said.

And that goal was repeated:

“The science here is not proven on either side,” Flaugh said. “There are lots of scientists on both sides of that equation: Creationism versus the theory of evolution. They’re both theories. And all we’re asking for is both sides of the discussion in a balanced way be put in front of the students.”

And it was repeated yet again:

“We’re not trying to ban books,” said Keith Flaugh, founder of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, which pushed for that state’s bill.

He said his group is seeking balance in school instruction, including teaching both evolution and creationism and the various arguments about climate change.

Those quotes lead me to the next point I want to make. The editorial questions why nearly every news story focuses primarily on science education.

The whole reason why the media is fixated on the science aspect of this law is because we here at Florida Citizens for Science — who specialize in science education, of course — were vigilant and aggressive. We brought the pitfalls of this law to the media’s attention and we made it incredibly easy for them to report on it, having done most of their work for them.

I’ve lamented to a few reporters that no one has stepped up to defend the other academic subjects under attack. There apparently is no Citizens for Civics organization out there, for instance. And many reporters should shoulder some blame for not bothering to do their own digging and questioning about those other academic subjects. The Alliance is much more focused on civics and history and religion than they are on science.

But science became the media’s focal point because evolution and climate change lessons in schools are hot button topics and we constantly monitor those topics and immediately take action, such as alerting the media, when problems pop up. Florida Citizens for Science would likely have never been involved in this fight if the Alliance hadn’t included science topics in their long list of “objectionable materials.”

Whereas I agree that many news stories have gotten some facts wrong and over hyped the impact of the instructional materials law, I disagree that we’re engaging in “needless fretting.” I appreciate that the news coverage has highlighted this issue because now citizen science advocates across the state are aware of the laws and are ready to act if needed. We’ve been flooded with correspondence, membership requests, and social media followers.

And the interest has led to yet more calls from reporters (I know that a few more stories are currently in the works). I make sure to emphasize to those reporters the facts of this issue, not the hype. We want reality-based awareness of this issue, not the-sky-is-falling screaming.

This is not “needless fretting.” This is citizen activism provoked by very real attacks on science education.

Congratulations! Florida gets an A!

July 19th, 2017 by Brandon Haught

A paper in the latest edition of Evolution: Education and Outreach examines how each state’s middle school science standards cover evolution (A state-by-state comparison of middle school science standards on evolution in the United States). The standards were judged in five categories: Is the term “evolution” used; Is the concept of evolution clearly defined; Multiple lines of evidence for evolution are presented; Natural selection is Mentioned and Defined; Adaptation is Mentioned and Defined. Florida maxed out the points available in every category, earning an A grade. Many other states that got A’s did so because they had adopted the national Next Generation Science Standards or used those standards to help craft their own. Florida was noted as one of only six states that didn’t use NGSS and yet still got an A. You can access the Florida standards here.

Florida also earned this special mention:

Florida and Pennsylvania
The two states with the most unique and teacher-accessible standards and resources are Florida and Pennsylvania. Teachers can set search parameters when entering the site- for example, “seventh grade” and “natural selection.” The search will lead directly to the specific standards that need to be addressed and a very valuable list of ready-to-go lessons, videos, and lab activities. Both sites also have links to online websites such as PBS for additional classroom resources. Teachers can put together targeted lesson plans around the state standards since the creators of the state standard websites have done the legwork for them. We have mentioned that good standards do not necessarily translate into good classroom teaching. Offering teachers valuable lessons based on the state science standards is a productive way to help ensure that the standards make their way into a teacher’s daily lesson plans. Any way a state’s department of education facilitates the process from translating the standards document into actual classroom practice is helpful.

The author is Bertha Vazquez from The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) and “has been teaching middle school science in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 24 years. She has BA in Biology from the University of Miami and a Master’s in Science Education from Florida International University.” She also wrote a column for the Palm Beach Post July 13 about Florida’s new instructional materials law: New curriculum-challenge law hides non-science agenda.

Also of note are the folks who helped Bertha: “Acknowledgements: Special thanks goes to the three other raters (in addition to the author) who helped with the standards review, Kate Myers of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, Kitchka Petrova of Florida State University, and Dora Pilz of Miami-Dade County. Public Schools.”

U.S. Senator from Florida blasts instructional materials law

July 18th, 2017 by Brandon Haught

Bill_NelsonU.S. Senator from Florida Bill Nelson seized upon all of the press generated by his state’s new instructional materials law to stand up for science on Monday and accuse Gov. Rick Scott of being anti-science: In Senate floor speech, Bill Nelson takes aim at Rick Scott and GOP’s ‘war on science’

Nelson took aim at a bill sponsored by Naples House Republican Bryon Donald that will allow anyone in the state to challenge and possibly change what kids are learning in public schools. The senator said he feared that could chill discussion on climate change in Florida schools.

“Sea-level rise in South Florida is a fact,” he began.

Unfortunately, Nelson makes a mistake here:

“But if there are some who object to that climate science, then, under this new law just signed by the governor, they are going to be able to object to that subject being taught in our public schools and a single hearing officer will determine — a single hearing officer – will determine — lord only knows who that officer is appointed by — that single person will determine under the new law if the objection is justified and they can force a local public school to remove the subject from its curriculum.”

He’s right to be worried about who that hearing officer could be. But the hearing officer doesn’t make any final decisions. He or she only makes a recommendation to the school board, which makes the final decision. Read the final version of the law here (pdf file). Also, it’s unlikely that this law will be used to remove subjects from the curriculum. The curriculum is mainly driven by the state science standards. Instead, school boards could alter what’s in instructional materials, such as textbooks, online materials, workbooks, etc. In other words, evolution and climate change won’t be erased. Rather, those subjects might be watered down or “balanced” with other unscientific ideas (intelligent design or climate change denial arguments).

For instance, the law’s authors and supporters said:

“Darwin’s theory is a theory, and the biblical view is a theory, and our kids should be taught both in a balanced way,” [Florida Citizens’ Alliance’s Keith Flaugh] said.

And that goal was repeated:

“The science here is not proven on either side,” Flaugh said. “There are lots of scientists on both sides of that equation: Creationism versus the theory of evolution. They’re both theories. And all we’re asking for is both sides of the discussion in a balanced way be put in front of the students.”

And it was repeated yet again:

“We’re not trying to ban books,” said Keith Flaugh, founder of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, which pushed for that state’s bill.

He said his group is seeking balance in school instruction, including teaching both evolution and creationism and the various arguments about climate change.

Despite Sen. Nelson’s error, we appreciate that he is aware of the law and its potential negative impact on science education. Thank you, sir.