A SENCER Symposium in South Africa: Meeting Developing Challenges in Education for a New Democracy

Some sixty faculty members, researchers, and academic leaders from the University of Pretoria, the University of Johannesburg, and the Academy of Science for South Africa and others attended the SENCER Symposium held on March 12 in Pretoria, South Africa. Many participants expressed the hope that this would be the first of what could become an annual event.


Organized by Professor Debra Meyer, head of the department of biochemistry at UP and SENCER Senior Fellow, the symposium was designed to connect science learning with critical civic issues. More fundamentally, however, the organizers aimed to apply the SENCER ideals to improving "through put"-that is, the likelihood that a student will successfully complete a course of studies in the sciences. Given that the South African higher (tertiary) education system utilizes a very traditional large-enrollment lecture and episodic high-stakes testing pedagogies, a most compelling challenge is to move in the direction of adopting active learning strategies. Click here to find out more about the Symposium.


“Natural Connections” in K-5 Education

Thanks to an emerging collaboration of representatives of the National Center, SENCER, the SCI-Chesapeake Bay, and the Virginia Department of Education that got stimulated by the SCI-Chesapeake Bay regional meeting at Front Royal, VA last fall, we were invited to attend an elementary education conference entitled "Natural Connections: Interdisciplinary Strategies for Teaching and Learning." The conference was held in Richmond, Virginia on the expansive grounds of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Center on March 28th and 29th. "Natural Connections" attendees spent most of their time in one of four strands, choosing to focus on energy, mapping, geocaching, or space. Each strand’s scientific learning objectives were also integrated with objectives in social studies, math, and language arts. Conitnue reading.


SCI - South organizes workshops at the 2014 Gulf South Summit and Research Week 2014 at Auburn University

Auburn University is hosting two regional events organized by the SCI-South, headquartered at University of North Carolina-Asheville this Spring. There is still time to attend one of them. Expanding on last year’s successful inclusion of SENCER with Auburn’s remarkable focus on, and extensive program to support, student and related research activities, SENCER will again be featured during Auburn’s 2014 Research Week coming up on April 17. Research week follows on the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education held on March 27.

During 2014 Research Week, the SENCER Center of Innovation - South will be holding morning and afternoon sessions on Thursday, April 17. Both sessions are designed for college and high school faculty who teach STEM and STEM-related courses.


Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education: At the invitation of Dr. Bob Holm, SENCER Leadership Fellow and assistant director of education in Auburn University’s Office of Sponsored Programs, SENCER SCI-South sponsored the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education. To learn more about the Gulf Summit and the Research Week click here.


On the Radio: William James, John Dewey, and a Robotics Fair in New York

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism students interviewed NCSCE executive director David Burns for a story they were producing on the role of a New York City robotics competition-now in its 14th year-in stimulating greater student interest in science learning and technology. You can listen to the brief report here.

In his 15-second part of the story, David makes a point almost everybody who has ever been to a SENCER gathering has heard him make before: if you start with a students’ interest, you can get to the interest you the teacher hope the student will develop. Fundamental to the "SENCER Ideals," David’s claim is inspired by-indeed paraphrased from-William James in his "Talks to Teachers" from 1899. James, sometimes called the father of psychology in America, had read John Dewey's seminal "Pedagogical Creed" (1897) when he gave "Talks." Continue reading.


What’s Happening in SENCER-ISE: Practice Makes Perfect: RVCC Students Prepare for Citizen Science Training Workshops

Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) and the New Jersey Audubon are partnering to integrate classroom work with citizen science field research to address forest health in central New Jersey. On April 12 and 26, 2014, students in Dr. Jay Kelly's Environmental Field Studies course at RVCC will be facilitating training workshops for volunteer citizen scientists who have been recruited by the New Jersey Audubon. The citizen scientists will be doing invasive plant surveys. In preparation for these workshops, the students held a practice session during their class on Monday, April 7, 2014. Ellen Mappen, SENCER-ISE Project Coordinator, was pleased to join Dr. Kelly, Dr. Nellie Tsipoura from the NJ Audubon, and the students during this practice session. The student teams presented information they had researched about invasive plants. Read more about the project here.


Future Engaging Mathematics Website

A new website is being designed that will house information about NCSCE's newest initiative, Engaging Mathematics: Creating a National Community of Practice. The website will be hosted on the WordPress platform, and will feature project updates, photos, and upcoming event announcements—all of which will be freely accessible to the public. The site will also feature a private side, accessible only to our Engaging Mathematics partner faculty. This private side will consist of a discussion board where partners can collaborate, share resources, and give each other feedback on course developments. For updates on website progress, check future issues of our eNews.


Riverland Community College to host "Making STEM Real" Symposium

June 16-17

With funds provided though its SSI 2013 Post-Institute Implementation Award,
the Riverland Community College SENCER team will be hosting a symposium on their campus in Austin, Minnesota on June 16 and 17. Each day of the Symposium will consist of morning plenary sessions with experienced SENCER practitioner leaders, Dr. Monica Devanas and Dr. Theo Koupelis. Monica and Theo will introduce the participants to the SENCER models of curriculum and active learning. The first day will also include hands-on workshops to offer participants opportunities to interact and partner with colleagues to improve STEM education within their institutions and communities. The second day will include a panel discussion with Dr. Devanas, Dr. Koupelis, Dr. John Zobitz, and Dr. Rick Dunning for extended discussion and response to audience questions. More information, including registration, speaker biographies, and the symposium agenda, is available here.


2014 SENCER Summer Institute

Individual, group, and team applications for SSI 2014 are due on April 1, 2014 and can be found here. If you have any questions regarding the Institute or applications, please do not hesitate to contact Kyle Simmons at or by phone at (202) 483-4600. We have wonderful plenary speakers already confirmed for SSI 2014 in Asheville, NC, including Dan Kahan of Yale University, students and faculty members from West Point, Sue Ellen McCann and colleagues from KQED in San Francisco, and Sherryl Broverman of Duke University. A brochure highlighting the SSI goals, themes, and logistics can be viewed here. Please share this link with colleagues who may be interested in learning more about SENCER and the Institute.


"Internet Privacy, Computer Ethics, and DiversITy"

Internet Privacy, Computer Ethics, and DiversITy in the STEM fields will be the focus of SCI-New England regional meeting to be held at Southern Connecticut State University on Saturday, April 5th from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. In the first of three morning presentations, Dr. Craig Willis of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will update attendees on the state of internet privacy and the related concept of data leakage. He will review steps users can take to curb the unwanted sharing of their information.


Professor Willis will be followed by Dr. Terrell Bynum of Southern Connecticut State University, a professor of philosophy and SENCER Model author. Professor Bynum will explore the intersection of SENCER ideals and computer ethics. His address will explain how thinking about and researching "policy vacuums," or situations not governed by current policy, can get students interested in privacy and computer security issues.


Wrapping up the morning sessions will be Dr. Pablo Garcia Molina of Southern Connecticut State University, who will discuss the state of diversity within the STEM fields. The Chief Information Officer at Southern Connecticut State, Dr. Molina, will help the conferees to learn how to reap the benefits of the increased diversity in culture, languages, and national identities within the information technology field. Click here to find out more about SCI-New England regional meeting.


Call for Manuscripts for the Summer 2014 Issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal

Eliza Reilly and Trace Jordan, co- editors of SECEIJ invite manuscript submissions for the Summer 2014 issue. Manuscripts in all topic areas, especially reports on projects that are international in scope, are welcome. The submission deadline for manuscripts is Friday, April 18. Please send all manuscripts and general inquires about the journal to the Managing Editor, Marcy Dubroff, at


Normandale Community College: A Place Where Students “See” Math

In our last issue, Normandale Community College’s Mathematics for the Liberal Arts was identified as a course that aims to inspire students to appreciate the mathematics that surrounds them, the mathematics that is hidden in plain sight. According to Normandale Professor Anthony Dunlop, the ultimate goal he envisioned while designing the course was “to have students think of math whenever they are near Minnesota’s many waterways, and to have at least an inkling that mathematics and quantitative reasoning [are] vital to understanding and protecting these resources.” The analysis of real data from the nearby Nine Mile Creek Watershed District serves as the instructional framework for Dunlop’s course. Continue reading.


SSI 2014 Plenary Speakers Announced, New SSI Brochure Released Online

NCSCE is pleased to announce several of the planned plenary speakers for the 2014 SENCER Summer Institute (SSI). The Institute will be held from July 31 to August 4 at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.


Dan Kahan of Yale University will return for a second year to continue our collective exploration of the relationships between education, opinion, public policy choices, and democracy.This year’s featured SENCER program in action will be provided by students and faculty members from the West Point SENCER team who will describe how their focus on energy strengthens disciplinary learning while promoting a capacity to address challenging, unscripted problems. Sue Ellen McCann and colleagues from KQED in San Francisco will help us understand the uses and misuses of (new and “old”) media in support of learning, as we forge connections between informal and formal educators, all in the service bringing greater capacity in scientific and quantitative thinking and reasoning to improving our understanding of complex issues.

As we prepare for SENCER’s 15th anniversary next year, our closing plenary will be offered by Sherryl Broverman of Duke University, who will help us see “where all this can go.”  She will narrate the evolution of a course on HIV disease at her university in North Carolina to the establishment of a school for girls in Kenya, and all that happened in between and since, and how internationalizing the perspectives of students on two continents improves more than just STEM learning.

Additionally, NCSCE has released a new online brochure which highlights the goals, themes, and details, of the Institute for newcomers and alumni alike. The brochure can be viewed here, and can also be shared by email, social media, or embedded on a website. We invite you to take a look and please share with any colleagues who may be interested in learning more about SENCER and the Institute!

A quick reminder that individual, group, and team applications for SSI 2014 are due on April 1, 2014 and can be found here. If you have any questions regarding the Institute or applications, please do not hesitate to contact NCSCE's Faculty Development Events Program Coordinator Kyle Simmons at

Annual Washington Symposium Planned for September 28-30

The SENCER DC Symposium will be held on September 28-30, 2014. Please save the dates, as more information, including submission deadlines for poster proposals and details on general guest registration, is made available in the coming months. The first day of the 2014 SENCER DC Symposium will consist of sessions at the National Academies designed to teach participants how to more effectively speak about their projects. The second day, also at the National Academies will focus on the intersection of Science and Policy, and will feature presentations from SENCER-Informal Science Education members, Engaging Mathematics  project partners and other current SENCER project partners. The final day will consist of a poster session on Capitol Hill, as well as meetings between poster presenters and their members of Congress or their staffs.

As we plan for the annual Symposium, we are also excited to share that a new invitational conference will be held in May in Washington, DC. This event will be an invitational event, and more details will be made available soon.

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