New NSTA Executive Director Talks Climate Education

Last month, AMS member David L. Evans began as the new executive director of The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning.
Evans—former director of the Center for Sustainability: Earth, Energy, and Climate at Noblis, Inc.—has served the science profession in many different capacities throughout his career. Along with serving as undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., he was assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, deputy assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, senior scientist and deputy administrator at the National Ocean Service, and program manager at the Office of Naval Research. Evans was also a tenured professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and was a classroom teacher in Media, Pennsylvania.
The Front Page asked Evans about his plans as executive director.
As the new executive director of NSTA, what are your plans for promoting education about climate and weather?
The National Science Teachers Association is a partner in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and will be working to encourage their adoption and assisting with implementation. One of the design constructs of the NGSS has been to reduce the breadth of topics covered in favor of greater depth. Weather and climate are among the disciplinary core ideas in the standards, which are important at all grade levels. In addition to their presence as “topics,” weather and climate provide ideal areas to explore science and engineering practices and cross cutting concepts like model development.
How did teaching prepare you for a career in science (and/or science prepare you for teaching?)
For me, teaching and science have always been intimately linked. Being a scientist has always inspired me to share what I know, whether in a journal article or in the classroom. Teaching is where it all begins, where we can ignite a spark in students to want to learn more about science. Discovering something new about the world we live in and discussing and sharing the information with others is all part of the scientific process of evidence-based reasoning and communication.
How do you feel your background in general will aid in facilitating the goals of the NSTA?
My background includes teaching at both high school and university levels, conducting and managing scientific research, and leading large scientific and educational organizations. At NOAA, I worked to enhance the education programs in the National Marine Sanctuaries, the National Sea Grant College Program, and NOAA Cooperative Institutes. At the Smithsonian, I worked to develop the National Science Resource Center and to emphasize the importance of the public understanding of science in the museums and zoo. My executive skills coupled with my management expertise will be helpful in leading the NSTA and navigating the association’s future. My program and administrative experiences will be helpful in managing the NSTA.
Are there plans for any new programs/innovations in the NSTA?
It is really too soon to talk about new programs in detail. However, STEM education is on the national agenda and there seems to be broad agreement on its importance. NSTA’s mission is to promote excellence in science teaching and learning for all and that is not confined to doing everything the same way that it has always been tried. We have learned quite a lot about how people learn and we have mature and evolving technologies that make “information” available everywhere, all of the time. NSTA will be a part of the changing landscape of professional development for teachers and new learning methodologies for students.