Science Teachers Awarded NCSE Rafting Scholarship

Few visitors to the Grand Canyon ever get to see it from within. While looking across the horizon and down into the canyon’s 6,000 feet of plummeting depth can be a life-changing experience for many, rafting down the Colorado River, the canyon’s original architect, is on an entirely different level. From the more peaceful stretches of the river, you can relax and gaze upwards from between two layers of rock older than the oldest fossils, but when the river surges forward, you have to stay on your toes or risk serious injury or even death.

Traveling down the Colorado River is one of the most powerful experiences in the world, which is why the NCSE has chosen two winners for their first ever teacher scholarships for their annual voyage down the Colorado River. Joining two NCSE staffers and twenty other NCSE supporters, financiers, and members will be Alyson Miller and Scott Hatfield, two extremely qualified and forward-thinking high school science teachers. These 24 people will enjoy an eight-day all-expenses-paid rafting adventure through the canyon floor, taking the opportunity to study the many unique specimens found only at this depth.

Few Grand Canyon tours reach this depth, and while relaxation and enjoyment are certainly on the itinerary for Miller and Hatfield, they won’t be wasting this one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn. “The Grand Canyon is the greatest geology teaching lab in the world, and they’ll be able to explore geological processes up close, place their hands on rock layers laid down before the first multi-cellular fossils, and see how plate tectonics, erosion, volcanoes, wind, and waves built up and carved down the landscape. I can’t wait to see what lesson plans they develop based on that experience,” said Steve Newton, an NCSE guide for this journey.

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Alyson Miller, one of the two teachers chosen, currently teaches biology at Nashua High School North in Nashua, New Hampshire, but her past achievements make it very obvious why she was chosen for this scholarship. In the past, she’s taught physics, plant sciences, physical sciences, and zoology amongst other high school and middle school classes, and she’s currently in the midst of a battle against a new New Hampshire law that allows parents to opt their children out of classes that teach evolution and climate change. “Perhaps I’m hypersensitive to the attempts to ‘wedge’ the teaching of supernatural causation into science classes, but I was not going to let this one rest,” she explains.

Also chosen for this Grand Canyon rafting adventure was the equally-qualified Scott Hatfield, a biology teacher at Bullard High School in Fresno, California who’s been teaching biology in Fresno for nearly 15 years. With accolades as a music director and choir teacher in local schools and churches, Hatfield provides a Christian perspective on the topics of evolution and climate change, introducing proven scientific facts in a way that doesn’t conflict with long-held religious beliefs.

Both teachers make it a point to emphasize evolution and the importance of climate change in their classrooms, fighting against laws and restrictive social norms that prevent students from learning. Do you believe that evolution and climate change have a place in the classroom? Let us know in the comments below and join the discussion!