Dan Kahan Delivers Spirited SSI Addresses on the Science of Science Communication

Dan Kahan of Yale University opened his plenary address during our SENCER Summer Institute 2014 by standing at the podium in front of the Humanities Lecture Hall, speaking into the microphone as you would expect. He quickly abandoned that stance, however. Preferring instead to bound up and down the aisles projecting his voice into the crowd, often with expansive arm gestures, it was clear that his passion for the science of science communication ran deep. Learning that he has run nine marathons did not come as a surprise! Dan is an active person with an even more active mind, so it’s fitting that he played such an active and pivotal role during SSI 2014. A member of the Cultural Cognition Project, Dan brought his seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm and energy to Asheville in order to communicate the importance of employing careful, thoughtful, and evidence-based methods of science communication that minimize ideological polarization. Continue reading.


Sherryl Broverman Describes How One SENCER Course Can Lead to Great Things

Where can a SENCER course take you? Somewhere you may never expect. In her plenary address at the close of our 2014 SENCER Summer Institute, Sherryl Broverman described how a SENCER course she developed on HIV/AIDS for Duke University led her to a rural Kenyan community near Lake Victoria. During the 2002 SENCER Summer Institute, Sherryl decided to collaborate with Rose Odhiambo and others at Egerton University in Kenya to link their courses on HIV/AIDS. Through this coupling and visits to the region, Sherryl’s knowledge about just how comprehensively and devastatingly the disease affects every aspect of the community grew. Indeed, even something so seemingly simple as the cost and general unavailability of sanitary pads triggers a whole web of problems for girls in the region—the lack of pads contributes to higher risk of infection and missed school days, which result in girls falling behind in their studies and dropping out of school. Sherryl used the knowledge she gained to push her work further. She founded WISER, or the Women’s Institute of Secondary Education & Research, to help educate girls and improve health. Continue reading.


SSI 2014 Sessions, Posters, Photographs Now Online

Thanks to the generosity of SSI 2014 presenters, we are able to share PDFs of many of the presentations from plenary sessions, concurrent sessions, work sessions, workshops, and invited posters. We will also add audio recordings of several of our plenary sessions to the site over the next week.

To access PDFs of session presentations, please click here.

To access PDFs of invited posters, please click here.

Please also continue to visit these pages over the next few weeks, as presentations and posters will be continuously added as we receive them from presenters. If you presented at the Institute and are willing to share resources from your talk, please email documents to Kyle at We also invite you to visit this page to peruse photographs of SSI 2014 participants, plenary presenters, and poster presenters. If you have any photographs you would like to share, please send to NCSCE staff via email, or we welcome you to share them via Twitter with @NCSCE, @SENCERnet, @sencerise, or @MathEngaging.


Summer 2014 Journal Issue Addresses Interdisciplinary Collaborations, Service-Learning, Informal Science Education, and Civic Engagement in Asia

In the Summer 2014 issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal, you will find articles elucidating four very different approaches of the impact, both locally and internationally, of science education on civic life. In a strong example of the scholarship of teaching and learning, Elizabeth Olcese, Gerald Kobylski, and Charles Elliott of the United States Military Academy and Joseph Shannon of South Seattle College have documented their systematic and research-based approach to developing a valid assessment rubric for West Point's Interdisciplinary Core Program. Their article "Meeting the Challenge of Interdisciplinary Assessment" notes that preparing students to address increasingly complex civic and societal challenges will demand a STEM-rich education that places greater emphasis on interdisciplinary courses and curricula. However, the problem of defining, and then measuring "interdisciplinarity" has acted as a brake on the development of programs and courses that give students essential experience in integrating and synthesizing knowledge from multiple disciplines. The detailed report of their process and their account of the results of their initial implementation are valuable contributions to a larger conversation, both about efforts to increase the civic impact of STEM learning, and the strategies used to assess those innovations. Click here to read about other articles in this issue of the Journal.


Newest SENCER Backgrounders Address Synthetic Biology and Supporting Undergraduate Leadership

SENCER Backgrounders are intended to provide intelligent, general readers with high quality syntheses of some of the complex, capacious civic issues that SENCER courses sometimes use to teach basic science. The idea is not to explain the science, but to connect some of what is known, and as yet unknown scientifically, with some of what is at stake civically. A second goal is to identify where scientific knowledge sheds light in such a way as to make civic choices more optimal. At the 2014 SENCER Summer Institute, we announced the addition of two new backgrounders to the series. Click here to read more about the Backgrounder and access the full text.


Now Accepting Registration for 2014 Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session

Registration for the 2014 NCSCE Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session is open! The Washington Symposium offers the opportunity for you to learn from cutting-edge experts and one another, to participate in thoughtful discussions, and to communicate the results of your work to leaders and peers. The Symposium will begin on September 28 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Our program will feature keynote presentations by Dan Kahan, Professor of Law and Psychology and Director of the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University, who will address the significance of Improving the public communication of science, and Andrew Gelman, Professor of Statistics and Political Science and Director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, who will help us consider “the evidence on evidence.”For complete schedule, click here.


What’s Happening in SENCER-ISE: Partners, Other Informal Science Educators Bring New Perspectives to SENCER Summer Institute

SENCER-ISE partners and informal science educators (ISE) had an increased presence at this year’s SENCER Summer Institute (SSI). Thirteen SENCER-ISE partners and partnership representatives participated in SSI. A few had been a part of the SENCER community for years, and others were newer to the community and still learning about its practices. All lent their expertise to SSI discussions, both large and small. SSI participants were provided opportunities to learn about the work done by the SENCER-ISE partnerships and other informal science educators throughout the Institute. Continue reading.


Engaging Mathematics Partners Get Chance to Engage in Collaborative Planning and Meet Others Interested in Their Work

SSI 2014 marks the second time the Engaging Mathematics partners came together as a group since the project’s kick-off meeting in January of this year. On the second day of the Institute, project Co-PI Cindy Kaus led a work session called “SENCER Mathematics Across the Curriculum.” The session attracted an interdisciplinary audience, which was indeed the goal - “My title worked!” Cindy proclaimed at the session’s start, after asking how many in attendance were professors of a subject other than math. During the session, project members and session attendees gave short presentations about the interdisciplinary civic issues within their courses. Continue reading.


2014 SENCER Models Now Available Online 

The three courses that have been selected as the SENCER 2014 models exemplify a number of exciting developments emerging in the curricula of participating institutions, including increasingly complex multi-disciplinary inquiry, the application of SENCER strategies to upper-division courses, and the extension of the SENCER approach to courses in non-STEM disciplines. Our first course in a social science, Economics, comes from the University of Hawai’i-Manoa. The Economics of Climate Change is an upper-division elective for majors that also fulfills the requirements in Social Sciences and Ethics for non-majors. Pollinators, from the University of Southern Connecticut, is a general education science course in the Honors College that addresses Colony Collapse Disorder as a case study in systems analysis and sustainability, demanding a highly integrated multi-disciplinary approach. Our third course is an introductory-level, general education course called simply The Chicken. This wide-ranging investigation of the many dimensions of the ubiquitous bird blends social and cultural analysis with substantial STEM content, including ontogeny, virology and epidemiology, genetics and evolution, avian behavior, probability and statistics, and nutrition. Click here for abstracts and full descriptions.


Susan Rundell Singer of the National Science Foundation to Deliver SSI Plenary Address on Learning through Authentic Experiences

Susan Rundell Singer is division director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation and the Laurence McKinley Gould Professor in the biology and cognitive science departments at Carleton College. She pursues a career that integrates science and education. In addition to a Ph.D. in biology from Rensselaer, she completed a teacher certification program in New York state. A developmental biologist who studies flowering in legumes and also does research on learning in genomics, Susan is a AAAS fellow, and has received both the American Society of Plant Biology teaching award and Botanical Society of America Charles Bessey teaching award. She directed Carleton’s Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, was an NSF program officer in biology, and is a co-author of the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology report and an introductory biology text. Continue reading.


SENCER Summer Institute 2014 Goes Social

We are excited to inform you that at this year’s SENCER Summer Institute (SSI), only a few days away, we will be placing a greater emphasis on social media! This means that we’ll be live tweeting from workshops, plenaries, presentations, and poster sessions. We will share photos, quotes, and other event highlights on our four Twitter networks: @SENCERnet, @NCSCE, @sencerise, and @MathEngaging.

If you’ll be joining us in Asheville for SSI 2014, we encourage you to share your experiences by adding the phrase “#SSI2014” to your Tweets about the event. If you won’t be able to make it this year but would still like timely updates about event happenings, following #SSI2014 is a great way to stay involved! We will also use #SSI2014 to post schedule updates, reminders, and other information of interest to participants. We can’t wait to connect with you, both online and off!


What’s Happening in SENCER-ISE: Hamilton College and Green Science Policy Institute Partnership Expands to Include Hope and Oberlin Colleges

Hamilton College in Clinton, NY and the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP) in Berkeley, CA have partnered to develop toxicology research opportunities for undergraduates that meld with public policy and civic engagement. Last academic year, Drs. Tim Elgren and Arlene Blum, along with Ms. Avery Lindeman of GSP, expanded Dr. Elgren’s existing Hamilton College Introduction to Chemistry course into a toxicology lab with elements of civic engagement to provide students with opportunities to share their research with the public. This past spring, Dr. Elgren was appointed as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. The partners saw Dr. Elgren’s new position as an opportunity to expand their existing partnership to include two new colleges. Continue reading.


Engaging Mathematics Gets Press in Oglethorpe’s Carillon Magazine

Carillon Magazine, published by Oglethorpe University, featured an article by Debbie Aiken called “TEACHING BACKWARDS” in its Spring/Summer 2014 issue. The article describes the Engaging Mathematics project, the SENCER method, and how Dr. John Nardo and Dr. Lynn Gieger, Engaging Math partners and Oglethorpe professors, will work to enhance Great Ideas of Modern Mathematics, a core course that every Oglethorpe student takes, for the grant. To learn more about how “teaching backwards,” a phrase coined by Dr. Gieger, helps students engage with and learn math, please read the glossy, digital article. Click here to connect with Debbie Aiken and Oglethorpe University.


Auburn University & Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have partnered since 2006 to offer Environmental and Conservation Education Programs to under-served schools in rural Alabama counties. The partnerships host daylong events at the Robert G. Wehle Nature Center near Midway Alabama. Fifth and sixth grade students spend the day conducting hands-on exploration in pond ecology, wildlife habitat and more. Faculty, staff and students from Auburn lead the programs as well as volunteers from government (U.S. Geological Survey), private industry (Alabama Power Company) and partner Universities (Jacksonville State University and University of West Alabama). Since 2006, ninety-two events have been held at no cost to the schools or the students attending.  Contributions from the Robert G. Wehle Charitable Trust and grants secured by Auburn University provide all funding including student transportation.


What’s Happening in SENCER-ISE: Dr. Tamar Kushnir and Michele Kortenaar Awarded Cornell University Innovative Pilot Study Grant

Dr. Tamar Kushnir, professor and Director of Cornell University’s Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory (ECCL), and Michelle Kortenaar, Director of Education at the Sciencenter, were recently awarded a 2014 Innovative Pilot Study seed grant from Cornell University’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Transitional Research (BCTR) to implement their project The Science Word Scavenger Hunt: Design, Implementation, and Assessment of a Simple Interactive Museum Experience to Engage Young Children and Their Families in Science Learning. The goal of the Innovative Pilot Study Program is to encourage shifting social and behavioral research into real-world practice and policy. The BCTR awards approximately four to five pilot grants a year for up to $12,000 each. The Science World Scavenger Hunt is an extension of the work done by Dr. Kushnir and Ms. Kortenaar on their SENCER-ISE project Science from the Start: Engaging Researchers, Undergraduates and a Science Museum to Reach Early Learners and Set the Stage for STEM Learning. Continue reading.


SENCER Summer Institute 2014 Agenda

As our annual SENCER Summer Institute approaches, we are finalizing the agenda for participants and presenters. SSI 2014 will be held at the University of North Carolina - Asheville campus from July 31st through August 4th. On July 30th, we will be hosting a Pre-Institute Symposium on Science and Public Policy, which will continue on the morning of July 31st. The afternoon of the 31st, an orientation for new SSI participants will be held, followed by the opening plenary address and gala welcome dinner. Click here for complete agenda.


Registration Still Open for Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session

The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement will hold its annual Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session from September 28th through 30th. The theme for this year’s Symposium is Science Education, Civic Engagement, and the Role of Evidence in Public Policy. The event is an opportunity for SENCER community members and others interested in the intersection of science and public policy to share the results of their on-campus projects and to demonstrate the projects’ on-campus and societal impacts. Click here for more information and registration form.


Jessica Wyndham of AAAS to Discuss the Intersection of Science and Human Rights at NCSCE Washington Symposium

Jessica Wyndham serves as the Associate Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program, which, according to its literature, “addresses ethical, legal, and human rights issues related to the conduct and application of science and technology. At the 2014 Symposium, she will address the imperative of scientists to get engaged in issues of policy generally and human rights specifically. Whether in the context of persistent social inequalities or climate change, contemporary global challenges call for the collaboration of policy makers and scientists, and a rigorous assessment of how these issues impact human rights. At the same time, it is important to recognize that science and technology can sometimes also infringe on human rights. Scientists can make significant policy contributions by identifying the connections between human rights and their areas of technical expertise. They have a responsibility to bring their technical know-how and rigorous methods to important social, policy, and human rights matters, but they also need to be supported in their efforts to communicate with policymakers. Continue reading.


SENCER-ISE and Engaging Mathematics Partners to Share Goals and Achievements at SSI 2014

In addition to the 37 groups and teams that applied to the 2014 SENCER Summer Institute, partners from the SENCER-ISE and Engaging Mathematics initiatives will also be in attendance. The SENCER Summer Institute supports these initiatives by offering the partners a chance to meet in person to share their strategies and best practices with each other and with the wider SENCER community. Click here to read more about the work being done by our SENCER-ISE and Engaging Mathematics partners.


SCI-Great Lakes Hosts Training for Undergraduate Stewardship Liaison

The SCI-Great Lakes held its annual Great Lakes-wide training for new Undergraduate Stewardship Liaisons (USLs) as part of the GLISTEN initiative at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie from June 12-14. USLs and faculty from four states and 12 campuses participated in three days of intensive, interactive sessions. These sessions focused on civic engagement in STEM disciplines at the college level, environmental service-learning curriculum development and implementation, building and sustaining partnerships with faculty and community partners, action planning, and the formation of vibrant, supportive USL networks at the local and regional levels. The SCI-Great Lakes and the Ohio Sea Grant Program, which provided major funding for meals, lodging, and facilities at the Stone Laboratory, jointly sponsored the training session.


SCI-Midwest Co-Director Presents to PULSE

Bob Seiser of SCI-Midwest attended the Midwest-Great Plains PULSE Conference from June 6-8 at Washington University in St. Louis. The PULSE Community was formed in support of the Vision & Change biology curriculum reform initiative. In an invited talk, Bob discussed the connections between PULSE and SENCER, particularly with respect to civic engagement as part of biology education. SCI-Midwest Co-Directors expect that several institutions that contributed to the PULSE/Vision & Change work will begin or increase their involvement with SENCER as a result of the conference.


What’s Happening in SENCER-ISE: University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Science Center Prepare for Summer Genome Ambassadors Programs

Dr. Rachel O’Neill of the University of Connecticut, Mr. Hank Gruner of the Connecticut Science Center, and their colleagues have been preparing for the Genome Ambassadors public programs that will take place at the Science Center over a five-week period beginning July 7, 2014. The Genome Ambassadors programs will focus on conducting surveys and hands-on genomic- and genetics-related activities with families visiting the Science Center to gauge public awareness and understanding of the principles and concepts of the field. The information collected will be used to guide the design and development of a 2,500 square foot genomics installation that the Science Center is planning for the next few years. In preparation for the public programs, the team conducted a literature search to define the key genomic principles for public understanding, built pubic assessment activities, and established a graduate student fellowship program, which supports two Ph.D. students in their training to undertake research and outreach activities in Genomics Literacy. Continue reading.


Saint Mary’s College & the Lindsay Wildlife Museum Launch Wildlife Educational Mobile App

Saint Mary’s College of California and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum have announced the launch of their wildlife education mobile app. A public preview of the app was featured in the June 4 issue of our eNews. The app is now available for free download in the iTunes store.


Saint Mary’s School of Science students developed the mobile app with the guidance of Lindsay Wildlife Museum staff. The work done on this project was supported by the SENCER-ISE initiative. Click here to read Saint Mary’s College and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum’s full press release


Tara Mann Represents SENCER at The Teaching Professor Conference

NCSCE would like to thank SCI-New England Co-Director Tara Mann, who represented SENCER at The Teaching Professor conference, held from May 30 through June 1 at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Mann filled in for David Burns and Monica Devanas, who were originally scheduled to lead the “Science Education and Civic Engagement: National STEM Curriculum Reform Project” presentation, but were unable to attend the event. As Dr. Mann reports, “The event was great. I had a group of 30+ with the vast majority being professors in the expected areas of biology, chemistry, and environmental sciences, as well as a couple of mathematicians.” She notes that one of the mathematicians in attendance, an economist, was “absolutely thrilled to see that SENCER really does include the M in STEM.” Continue reading.


Twenty Poster Presentations Selected for SSI 2014

SSI 2014 participants were invited to submit posters showcasing the work they are doing in their institutions to advance the SENCER Ideals. Poster proposals were reviewed and selected through a competitive application process. This year’s posters describe innovative courses, collaborations, and academic programs that teach disciplinary content through issues of civic importance. For example, partners in SENCER-ISE-Fordham University and the Wildlife Conservation Society-have entered into a collaboration resulting in “Project TRUE, Teens Researching Urban Ecology in New York City.” Click here to see full list of poster presentations.


Roosevelt University Uses Chicago’s Social Justice Issues to Teach Algebra

NCSCE’s Engaging Mathematics initiative is dedicated to applying the SENCER approach to mathematics courses, with the goal of making the subject more accessible and interesting to students. Roosevelt University’s math professors Cathy Evins and Barbara Gonzalez will develop a new algebra course that couples math instruction with important social justice challenges in the city of Chicago, including transportation, crime, water, food access, infrastructure, and demographics. Continue reading.


What’s Happening in SENCER-ISE: Karen Tingley, Project Director on “Building Strong Community Networks”

The work done by our partners extends beyond the SENCER-ISE initiative. Karen Tingley, Co-PI from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which is partnering with Fordham University on “Project TRUE”, also served as the Building Strong Community Networks (BSCN) Project Director. BSCN was a two-year action research project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and The Rockefeller Foundation, which focused on identifying and creatively responding to Brooklyn’s community needs through the collaborative efforts of six Heart of Brooklyn cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park, and the Prospect Park Zoo. Continue reading.


Board on Science Education Anniversary Program Addresses Meeting Challenges on the Horizon for STEM Education

On June 9, the National Academy of Sciences celebrated the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Board on Science Education (BOSE) and recognized transitions in the Board’s leadership. Speakers engaged in lively discussions regarding the Board’s contributions to education, advances in practice, seminal research, and publications, while considering questions including, how can we truly measure impact? What structures and collaborations best support the implementation of best practices? How broadly and how narrowly do we define science? How can educators, both formal and informal, best be involved in these discussions? Reviewing the Board’s research, publications, and contributions, Bruce Alberts noted that early committees had “[built] the mutual respect that builds a community.” Continue reading.


The Summative Successes of Dr. Victor J. Donnay

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Victor J. Donnay, who has not only been named the William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair of Mathematics during Bryn Mawr College’s recent commencement ceremony, but has also appeared on G-town Radio’s talk program“Science 2.0: Science for the Rest of Us” on May 24. During the radio interview, Dr. Donnay discussed how math relates to environmental sustainability. In case you missed the live stream, or just want to hear it again, you can listen to a recording of the program at Podomatic. Dr. Donnay currently serves as an advisory board member for NCSCE’s Engaging Mathematics initiative. His Ordinary Differential Equations in Real World Situations course was selected as a SENCER model in 2008. We are proud to have him in the SENCER community, and are pleased to extend our congratulations on his most recent achievements.

2014 Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session Speakers Announced, Call for Proposals Released

This year's annual Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session will consider Science Education, Civic Engagement, and the Role of Evidence in Public Policy. Speakers joining us to lead explorations of the complexities of these topics include Dan Kahan of Yale University, who will focus on the challenges of science communication and its relationship to public policy, and Andrew Gelman of Columbia University, who will help us consider "the evidence on evidence." Click here for more information about the Symposium.

Engaging Mathematics Gets New Website

We are pleased to announce that NCSCE’s newest initiative, Engaging Mathematics: Creating a National Community of Practice, just launched a new website! The site features descriptions of the latest grant advancements, information about the project’s goals, and a section where grant partners can communicate and share materials with each other. As work on the grant progresses, additional products will be made available online, including course packages and modules, as well as online workshops and webinars. Please direct any comments or questions about the website or initiative to Christine Marie DeCarlo, the Engaging Mathematics Program Assistant.

Follow SENCER on Twitter and Facebook

Connect with SENCER for daily updates, news from around the STEM world, and conversations on twitter @sencernet and on facebook here! We welcome your input and any info you’re interested in sharing on our pages.



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