NCSCE Awards 10 Grants to Promote Equity, Environmental Protection, and Assessment

NCSCE Awards 9 Grants to Promote Equity, Environmental Protection, and Assessment

The National Center for Science & Civic Engagement is awarding nine SENCER Summer Institute 2016 Post-Institute Implementation Awards that advance science education and civic engagement. Grants will support projects addressing recycling of common and uncommon goods, access to resources such as clean water and soil, and use and access of community gardens.

Projects also emphasize novel assessment strategies. Large scale assessments will be implemented to foster collaborations and data comparisons, and new assessments will be created that measure how classroom experiences differ among whites and minorities.

Executive summaries for the funded projects are listed below. Grant recipients include Auburn University, Beloit College, Lipscomb Academy, Lipscomb University, Northern Virginia Community College, Palo Alto College, St. Philip’s College, Texas Woman’s University, and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Project leaders’ names are listed directly below the names of the institutions, with project collaborators following in alphabetical order. Collaborators are based at lead institutions unless otherwise indicated. These projects were selected following a competitive review process.

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Auburn University
Dr. Aurora Weaver, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Disorders (PI)
Dr. Ann Knipschild, Professor, Music Department
Dr. Jennifer Kerpelman, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, College of Human Sciences, Director of Research Week Conference
Dr. Larry Molt, Associate Professor, in the Department of Communication Disorders
Dr. Lorraine Wolf, Director of Undergraduate Research
Martha Taylor, Assistant Vice President for Research, Director, Office of Sponsored Programs
Dr. Nancy Haak, Associate Professor and Chair, in the Department of Communication Disorders
Dr. Nels Madsen, Professor and Associate Dean of Assessment and Special Projects, College of Engineering at Auburn University, Head of STEM Task Force
Dr. Paula Bobrowski, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development
Dr. Robert Holm, Professor and Associate Director, Proposal Services & Faculty Support
Community Partners:
The Growing Room
Spicer’s Music

This project extends efforts on Auburn University’s campus to engage undergraduate students in SENCER principles, and builds upon work begun with a 2013 Post-Institute Implementation Award. Students will participate in a research project focused on the impact of music training on auditory function. Working in interdisciplinary teams, the students will participate in experimental research using behavioral listening tasks to measure the effects of musical training on auditory function. Partnering with local agencies, the undergraduate teams will report their findings in an effort to develop an awareness of evidence-based strategies for caregivers of children, and adults who are likely to benefit from musical training. Current research reveals that engaging young children in musical training refines their auditory function. Individuals with acquired developmental hearing impairment can benefit from improved selective auditory attention. Given the climate of society reducing free access to musical activities for children, the Auburn team believes it is important to involve a wide range of students into STEM-related academic pursuits in this project, the goal being to trigger civic interest in a diversity of undergraduate students in the knowledge and skills relevant to STEM-related professions, including public health, nursing, healthcare, and engineering.

Beloit College
Dr. Rachel Bergstrom, Assistant Professor of Biology (PI)
Dr. Britt Scharringhausen, Associate Professor of Physics
Dr. Catherine Orr, Professor and Chair of Critical Identity Studies
Dr. Erin Munro, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Dr. Nicole Truesdell, Senior Director of the Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness/Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Dr. Ted Gries, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Beloit College has, for over a decade, included active, inquiry-based SENCERized curriculum across STEM. Underrepresented students complete STEM majors at Beloit College at the same rate as their white peers but with lower graduating GPAs. Beloit’s data indicate that minority students experience the classroom differently than their white peers. This differential experience may negatively impact performance in STEM. The student experience in STEM courses is strongly correlated with a student’s likelihood of persisting in the STEM field, either as a major or in STEM careers (Cabrera et al, 2001; Colbeck et al, 2001). Beloit must, therefore, be critical of their STEM pedagogy. With the new Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusion, Beloit has begun incorporating equity- and assets-based approaches to pedagogy. They incorporate the lived experiences of their students as valuable contributions that can be used to create equitable engagement. An assessment of the impact of classroom experiences on learning outcomes in STEM classes does not exist. This grant will be used to support testing of qualitative and quantitative assessment strategies in STEM courses at Beloit College. The Beloit team will use previously-validated assessments and mine national surveys of student experience to tailor questions that address specific class experiences. Assessments of individual class experiences in response to inclusive pedagogical practices will be surveyed in the spring 2017 semester. These assessments will be used to evaluate new equity/assets-based pedagogical practices, with a focus on building inclusive and equitable classrooms that truly welcome a diversity of students into STEM and higher education.


Lipscomb Academy
Ginger Reasonover, K-4 Science and Green Team Coordinator, Lipscomb Academy Elementary School (PI)
Dr. Autumn Marshall, Chair, Nutrition and Kinesiology Professor, Lipscomb University
Becky Collins, Kindergarten Teacher and Green Team Coordinator, Lipscomb Academy Elementary School
Erin Rickelton, Green Club Leader, Lipscomb Academy Middle School/High School
Kristi Reynolds, Chemistry, Science Team Leader, Lipscomb Academy High School

The Lipscomb Academy Team plans to continue the legacy of Lipscomb SENCER work, on both the Elementary and Middle/High School campuses, as well as in the community in the upcoming year. The Green Team at the Elementary School and the Green Club at the Middle/High School will continue to promote sustainability through recycling awareness and education projects. These will include gardening projects, sustainability education, and increased presence of recycling receptacles on both campuses. The teams will also continue the tradition of hosting a Recycling Day at the Elementary School, not only for Lipscomb but also for the surrounding community, to recycle computers, batteries, and prescription drugs, in addition to more common recyclable goods. The goals of this project will be: 1) to increase student participation in existing Green Team and Green Club efforts, 2) to increase faculty participation in SENCER opportunities, 3) to support the educational efforts of the team with supplies for sustainability projects on both campuses, 4) to support faculty travel to SENCER regional meetings and summer institutes, and 5) to publish the results of educational efforts of the team through the SENCER journal or poster presentations and workshops at regional meetings and Summer Institutes.

Lipscomb University
Dr. Autumn Marshall, Chair, Nutrition and Kinesiology Professor (PI)
Dr. Carroll Wells, Chair, Mathematics Professor
Dr. Stacia Watkins, English & Modern Languages Associate Professor, Director of General Education Program
Tamera Klingbyll, MS, Biology Instructor

The Lipscomb University team plans to continue the legacy of SENCER work both on campus and in the community in the upcoming year. The team plans to continue supporting science education at the TN Prison for Women, supplying educational materials as requested and encouraging increased participation in the LIFE Program. The team plans to continue its support of on campus courses as well, supporting integrated math and science courses for undergraduate students and supporting a speakers bureau to provide lecturers for professional development for K-12 teachers and a STEM Day on campus. The team would like to implement the SENCER SALG to evaluate SEE Math workshops for local K-4 math teachers. The team plans to continue use of the SALG to evaluate integrated science courses, and expand to include more courses in the General Education curriculum. SALG results will be used to improve courses taught, and will be documented in the university’s SACSCOC accreditation self-study prior to the 2017 site visit. The team plans to publish its SENCER work through posters and workshops at SENCER institutes and regional meetings.

Northern Virginia Community College
Dr. Gillian Backus, Professor of Biology (PI)

The goal of this project is to leverage the intensive faculty development opportunities provided at the 2017 SENCER Summer Institute to incorporate SENCER practice across the campuses of Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC). Dr. Backus will use her position as Biology Cluster chair for the six campuses of NVCC to identify and recruit participants to attend this year’s Institute from among the more than 150 full-time and adjunct Biology faculty across NVCC. In addition to the Biology faculty who will be recruited, Dr. Backus will reach out to other disciplines to share information about SSI 2017 with Deans at each campus, and with the Cluster chairs of Chemistry, Geology, Environmental Science, and Physics. More widely, Dr. Backus will write blog posts and articles for college-wide faculty newsletter informing them of this opportunity. Before and during SSI 2017, the NVCC faculty in attendance will consult with a member of the SENCER community skilled in institutionalizing the SENCER approach to guide the project. As a condition of their participation in the Institute, all participants will have to either present on what they learned at SSI at a teaching conference (NISOD, New Horizons, PuP, APDD, or VCCS Peer Group) or develop an assignment or learning module for immediate use in a class in Fall 2017 that focuses on civic engagement.

Palo Alto College
Dr. Jerrod Butcher, Instructor of Biology (PI)
Dr. Lance Sandberg, Instructor
Laura Houston, MS, Assistant Professor, Northeast Lakeview College
Dr. Martha Trevino, Director, Office of Experiential Learning, Alamo Colleges

The project collaborators will lead the incorporation of civic engagement in two targeted courses at both Palo Alto College and Northeast Lakeview College. With the support of this grant, these two individually accredited institutions will SENCERize established science courses. The topic of pollution is not uncommon in school curriculum from kindergarten through higher education. However, it is easy to become inattentive of water and soil quality issues when growing up in a developed country with seemingly unlimited access to “clean” water and unseen pollution. The goal for including civic engagement in the targeted courses is to enable students to relate what they have learned about water and soil pollution to biological systems. Presenting concepts of biology within the context of water and soil pollution could improve students’ overall understanding of the concepts while providing them an enjoyable learning experience (Ghosh-Dastidar and Tsenova, 2012). To achieve this goal, Palo Alto College and Northeast Lakeview College will redesign a portion of two of biology courses’ laboratory exercises while adhering to the learning outcomes mandated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (ACGM, 2016). Biology for Science Majors 1 will be redesigned to review water quality. Students will tour water testing facilities, analyze current water quality reports provided by public utilities, and collect and analyze water from sources on and around campus. Students in Microbiology for Science Majors will estimate from plate counts soil bacteria around constructed and natural wetlands and estimate water bacteria counts by filtration. They will consider the effects of fertilizer runoff of bacteria populations.

St. Philip’s College
Dr. Hitish Nathani, Professor of Chemistry (PI)
Kathy White, MS, Former Chair/Associate Professor of Biology
Dr. Marie-Michelle Saint Huber, Former Chair/Assistant Professor, Power Generation and Alternative Energy Program
Mary B. Cottier, MS, Former Dean of Arts and Sciences, Mathematics Instructor

Through the support of this grant, St. Philip’s College aims to increase civic engagement in STEM by implementing the St. Philip’s Eastside Community Garden (ECG). This proposal builds on the work done at St. Philip’s College, presented recently as “Seeding an Inner City Community Garden with College Students” by Kathy White and Dr. Michou Saint Hubert, at the SENCER Summer Institute in Chicago in August 2016. The St. Philip’s College ECG is a joint venture between St. Philip’s College, Antioch Baptist Church, The Green Space Alliance, and the greater Eastside San Antonio Community. ECG has provided an opportunity for St. Philip’s College faculty and students to interact directly with community stakeholders to build and develop the garden. In the past year, the ECG has added eight new beds, a pollinator garden, a solar-powered charging station, and cleared enough land to double the size of the garden. The garden also provides fresh produce to the local community at no charge. Some of the challenges the ECG faces are that: (1) some faculty are unaware of the opportunity available to make learning science a hands-on experience while serving the community, (2) students are not guided to practice what is learned in class in a real-world setting, and (3) community residents are not sure how to cook and eat the produce provided by the garden. Therefore, the goals of the ECG are to: (1) increase the number of faculty engaged in the ECG from five to 10. Faculty will formally incorporate SENCER ideals into courses using the ECG as the service site. Targeted faculty include five additional STEM faculty and non-STEM faculty including faculty in culinary arts, restaurant management, the welding program, and construction science; (2) increase the number of students engaged at ECG from 226 to 300 through community service or research; and (3) promote awareness of healthier eating practices in the Eastside community through community events. Faculty and students will present and demonstrate the cooking of fresh produce through the “Plot-to-Plate” series, comprehensive seminars where community participants harvest, clean, cook, and ultimately eat the fresh produce.

Texas Woman’s University
Dr. Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan, Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Shaumarie Tanner, MST, Assistant Clinical Professor, Laboratory Coordinator, Biology Department

The Texas Woman’s University (TWU) team will incorporate an individual research project in anatomy and physiology labs and physics labs early in the spring semester of 2017. The project will engage students in the course using a case study on a system of the human body. This case study will be designed to increase student understanding and attitudes towards the sciences, with an emphasis on the biology of the human body. The anatomy and physiology project will be a pilot program designed to enhance civic engagement through the learning of science content using medicinal-based queries. Students will better understand their own bodies as well as real world problems facing human populations globally. A SENCER activity focusing on the energy efficiency concept will also be added to a calculus-based physics labs in the spring of 2017. In this activity, students will be asked to research a device that converts human kinetic energy into electric potential energy. This potential energy will ultimately be used to power other devices such as cellphones, laptops, and more. The physics project is also a pilot program to increase student awareness and appreciation of energy sources and consumption. This project encourages students to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of a system. Students will need to use physics and mathematics equations to justify their reasoning, helping them to use this knowledge toward future environmentally friendly practices and sustainability.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Dr. Ulla Hasager, College of Social Sciences Director of Civic Engagement
Dr. Hokulani Aikau, Associate Professor of Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Politics
Dr. Robert Franco, Director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Kapiʻolani Community College
Wendi Vincent, Education Specialist, UH General Education Office

While continuing the ongoing documentation projects focusing on interactive media, storytelling, and video production, for 2017, the Hawaiʻi team will first and foremost work on assessment training and collaboration. There is a strong need to improve assessment for documentation, inspire and convince new partners of all types (from institutions to informal science educators), continue to improve already SENCERized courses and projects, and create large collaborative assessment projects and pools of comparative data across the network. This is intended to facilitate student transfer and project collaboration. The Hawaiʻi team is focused on documenting indigenous knowledge learning gains as a central combining factor in their joint work. They will also work to include new partners in the network, and expand and improve professional development opportunities for all participants–helped by innovative communication tools created with support from their joint 2015 implementation grant.

Photo credit: Mars P. (CC BY 2.0)

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