Thousands are expected to turn out this Saturday, April 14th, at Pioneer Courthouse Square beginning at 10am for the Portland March for Science. This year’s rally and march has been organized by an all-volunteer crew in support of scientific inquiry, science-informed policymaking, and access for all to science education. Last year, over 15,000 people joined Portland’s March for Science as a direct action in protest of President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The science of cycling has been guaranteed a place on the mainstage this year. Andrea Chiotti, Education Coordinator with the Community Cycling Center and its STEM Bicycle Mechanics program, and Rex Burkholder, co-founder of the organization now known as The Street Trust and a former Metro Councilor, will both be speaking about science in our lives, our region’s policies, and our schools.
We asked Rex and Andrea to share a few thoughts about the March for Science…
Why are you excited about joining the March for Science?
Rex: The March for Science is about people speaking out and sharing a way of experiencing the world based on facts. We face a lot of challenges and we need to encourage people to use scientific thinking is a way to evaluate and solve real world problems.
If we have a large amount of people who come out and say that we need science-based decisions, we will have policies that reflect that. And that matters. Just look at bikes!
Andrea: I’m really excited to have one of our STEM Bicycle Mechanics students be able to speak in front of a group of people about their experience. This person will have the opportunity to speak his truth out loud, and what led him there was science via the bicycle–the ability to explore, collaborate, and do critical thinking. So I think it’s this idea that science is part of life in general.
The March for Science is also originally about Trump denying climate change. It’s taken on a broader meaning this year and taken on more issues. When you think about who is most affected, it’s marginalized people, and those are the people who have the hardest time accessing education. So it’s important that our STEM students are getting access to practical hands-on education related to workforce training and also be able to go to the March for Science and talk about that.
What gives you hope?
Rex: Seeing children get that look in their eye when they understand how things work. And then they ask those questions like, well why aren’t you solving climate change? The other side of it is that we have proof that we can take action based on a rational assessment of the world and we can take action to protect it. I celebrate every time I see an eagle in downtown Portland. Eagles didn’t exist when I was a young person except in the wilderness because of DDT. And now they’re back.
Who was your favorite science teacher?
Andrea: Mr. Burleson did this thing for me, because I love science and I don’t excel at science. Burleson saw me trying really hard but not getting good grades based on test scores. And so he fudged the numbers, and I was therefore able to go to other science classes. Science is about failing, and that’s so important. However, our school systems don’t allow for failing, which is why alternative schools are really helpful about meeting students where they’re at and getting them what they need. And that’s why I’m excited about the Cycling Center’s STEM program.
After the march at 11:00 am, Pioneer Courthouse Square will be transformed into a Science Expo with hands-on activities and non-profits with ways for citizens to become active to support science. A Kids Zone and Science Circus make it a fun and educational event for families. Between 12:30PM and 3PM, during Science Talks, speakers and performers will take the stage, delivering short talks and playing music. The event will even have a Science Circus.
Besides Rex and Andrea, speakers include: Cornelius Jefferson, a student at Helensview High School and participant in the STEM Bicycle classes; Anushka Nair, high school senior, 1st place winner at the International Science and Engineering Fair, and founder of a tech camp for girls; and Larry Sherman, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at OHSU, who will talk about the history and growth of science skepticism. Music will be performed by Gray Fiction, Unpresidented Brass Band, Raging Grannies, and Revolution Choir. The Science Expo will feature nonprofits, such as Oregon Wild, OMSI, and Northwest Noggin.
Learn more at MarchforSciencePDX.org.
— Steph Routh is the communications director for the Community Cycling Center.
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Steph Routh lives in Portland’s Lents neighborhood. She is the former executive director of Oregon Walks and a founding board member of Cycle Wild.