Meeting Description:

NCSCE and SENCER was represented at the international meeting of 4S with a panel on:

Recuperating the Social Contract for Science and Education

Links to presentation slides included below.

In 1997 Jane Lubchenco, the incoming president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, called for “A New Social Contract for Science” that addressed the existential crisis of the human impact on ecological systems. Her call pushed back against the ideological framing, dominant since the end of WWII, that science was a “value neutral” process, and science education’s chief purpose was to build a STEM “workforce” driving material, economic, and technical progress. However, in the late 19th and early 20th century, the advocacy for science education in the US focused not on its economic function but on its civic and ethical importance to a democratic society committed to honest inquiry and human flourishing. As leaders and members of Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (, our panel will highlight four projects which underscore the importance of and manner in which science’s civic and social contract can be recuperated as a foundation of 21st century STEM education: (1) Critical pedagogies in the introductory biology classroom – Cultivating self-discovery, social consciousness and dialogic thinking; (2) From waste to resource – Project based learning and wastewater epidemiology in the Covid19 pandemic; (3) Ethical thinking and matters of care in science teacher education; (4) Healing relationships with the natural world through critical place inquiry. Members of this panel critically interrogate power relations in science and education to reconfigure ‘student-teacher-scientist’ becomings through their work as tertiary science educators across diverse geographical, institutional, and community contexts.

Introduction: The Frame For Science Education

Eliza Jane Reilly, National Center for Science and Civic Engagement

Critical pedagogies in the introductory biology classroom – Cultivating self-discovery, social consciousness and dialogic thinking

Bryan Dewsbury, Florida International University

In this paper, I share how critical pedagogies transform an introductory biology class from a space which has historically been about fetishising content toward a space for critical consciousness and dialogic community. Recent science education reform has largely been focused on value neutral ‘best practices’ for the acquisition of content, yet these reforms do little to transform the problematic hierarchical structures of science and the production of scientific knowledge. The introductory biology class, when informed by critical pedagogy, is a space in which science can practice democracy and shared governance. Introductory science classes at the university which have been positioned as gatekeeper courses that separate the scientists from the non-scientists can instead become transformative seeds of possibility for changing the structures and value systems of the sciences. From waste to resource – Project based learning and wastewater epidemiology in the Covid19 pandemic;

From waste to resource – Project based learning and wastewater epidemiology in the Covid19 pandemic;

Davida Smyth, Texas A&M-San Antonio

This presentation will focus on science education as civic education, and how issues of waste, climate change, public health and sustainability can help promote student understanding of the importance of scientific literacy for planetary health and human flourishing. We share how university students learned, through investigations of wastewater and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, about what it means to do responsible research with(in) local communities. A driving question for these explorations is how do people in different communities and countries see waste, and what does it mean to work within diverse contexts from a waste as resource perspective? We will also address the limits of science in finding solutions to these problems, taking into consideration the nature and diversity of human behavior as well as different communities and population’s understanding of and trust related to the scientific process. Implications will be shared for project-based science learning, specifically related to local and contextualized authentic research as curriculum.

Ethical thinking and matters of care in preservice science teacher education

Sara Tolbert, Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha, Univeristy of Canterbury, NZ

This paper illustrates how preservice teachers responded within a multimedia case study of a cat dissection. The case study explores how a group of high school students who participated in the dissection struggled not with the act itself, but with the unceremonial nature of disposing the remains. In a follow up activity, preservice teachers explored a second case study of predominantly Māori primary school students who grappled with the ethical complexities of euthanising moths for a reference collection, as part of a citizen science project. In this case, the primary students wanted to find a way to be able to participate in the project without compromising their cultural practices. Thinking-together-aloud, from the standpoint of the science teacher educator who facilitated these activities and two friends/colleagues who did not, we (presenters) share our own dialogic reflections on how preservice teachers’ both engaged and disrupted colonial and capitalist logics as they responded to these ethical tensions.

Healing relationships with the natural world through critical place inquiry

Alexa Schindel, University of Buffalo

Climate justice involves recognizing the deeply intertwined relationships between people and the natural world, and recognizing that climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations on the planet–historically marginalized communities and other living things. Thus, the ecological crisis must be addressed alongside the interrelated fundamental human crises including racism, patriarchy, and economic inequality to envision the kind of future we want to live in. Our research examines how pre- and in-service science teachers enrolled in a climate justice in education course engage in critically examining their relationships with/in communities–both human and more than human. This paper shares findings of students’ critical place inquiries (Tuck & McKenzie, 2015) as presented in reflections, StoryMaps, and interviews. Teachers in the study critiqued exploitative relationships with the natural world, (re)centered their relations with more than human others, and identified as actors in reciprocal relationships within places they identified as significant. These findings form a foundation of what we term ‘critical healing’–or the process of challenging systems of oppression, exploitation, and separation from the nature that fray our interrelations, while also engaging in the place-situated and often uncomfortable work of developing and healing relationships with other humans and the natural world.