2007 Post-Institute Implementation Awards

NCSCE Funds Projects to Improve Teaching and Learning

NCSCE has funded a promising group of projects that emerged from discussions at the 2007 SENCER Summer Institute. Teams of 4-6 people who attended SSI 2007 were eligible to submit applications for a $3,000, two-year SENCER-NSF sub-award. The team plans represent thoughtful, intriguing initiatives in teacher education, courses for non-science majors, courses for STEM majors, undergraduate courses, clusters, and faculty development workshops. We expect many of the projects to evolve into model courses over the next several years. The topics covered are diverse, ranging from organic chemistry to traffic, infectious diseases, pharmaceuticals, water quality, food, entomology and public health. Future issues of the newsletter will feature more detailed information about the projects, but brief descriptions of the funded projects are included here.

Arkansas State University
Alan Christian, Erik Gilbert, Steve Green, Robyn Hannigan, Tillman Kennon, Carolyn Dowling, Patrick Stewart, Gauri Guha

Arkansas State University will develop and offer a course to first semester students in the environmental sciences (“Environmental Sustainability”). The primary focus will be introducing students to global environmental issues and the related local issues. This team taught multidisciplinary course will focus on global environmental issues centered on a simple question: Can we feed everyone? Through exploration of resource management science, history, policy and economics students will gain skills in critical problem solving. They will apply these skills in a community-based research project that solves a real environmental issue in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas. Students will not only gain significant experience thinking and acting like scientists but will provide feedback to the community through reports to local policy makers and farm bureaus.

Classroom with People

Butler University
Joseph Kirsch, Robert Holm, Margaret Brabant, Donald Braid, Tara Lineweaver, John Esteb, Philip Villani, Anne Wilson, Stacy O’Reilly

Butler University will develop two new SENCER natural science courses with laboratory requirements. Both courses will meet the science requirement in the current general education curriculum while simultaneously serving as pilots for the science requirement of the new general education curriculum. These two new courses will involve interdisciplinary collaborations of faculty across the science disciplines and into the community. “Water Quality” and “Food: Pasture, Table, Body, and Mind” will debut in the 2008/2009 academic year, and will infuse both global and civic engagement issues into the science and general education curriculum.

The College of Saint Rose
Rick Thompson, Paul Benzing, Jacqueline Smith, Margaret McLane

The College of Saint Rose will use its implementation grant to support faculty development related to their Problem Based Learning Initiative. This three-course program serves to prepare future elementary teachers to better teach science and math by improving both their content knowledge and by teaching confidence through team-taught lectures, peer-led workshops involving real-world problems, and inquiry-based labs. Over the coming years they will hold workshops for faculty and student leaders to discuss current trends in science teaching and to brainstorm approaches to include more SENCER-inspired themes in the courses. An important feature of the workshops will be the collaboration and dialogue between faculty from the sciences department and those from the special education and teacher education departments from the School of Education. This close working relationship will help them to better coordinate the science content courses with the subsequent teaching methods courses.

Geneva College
Rodney Austin and Jeffrey Cole

“Worth of Water” is a team taught course that examines current water issues through the lens of the basic sciences and social sciences by integrating content from a variety of disciplines. The course is designed to enhance students’ understanding and awareness of the complex issues related to water and it is structured to increase their understanding and awareness of water issues in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the United States, and the global environment. As part the curriculum, the course contains travel to southern Florida for the students to see first-hand one set of water issues in a locality selected for its unique set of problems. The ultimate goals of the course are to help students increase scientific competencies, become better stewards of creation, become informed citizens, and become more astute consumers as they balance societal needs and environmental concerns with social, political, and economic issues related to water.

Georgia College & State University
Julia Metzker, Amy Kelley, Karynne Kleine

In collaboration with the GCSU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the New Faculty Orientation Program the team will use the funding to offer a professional development opportunity for interested faculty of all disciplines. This year-long workshop will support participants as they learn to apply SENCER principles and pedagogy to course development. Five selected faculty members will receive a stipend for developing SENCER-enhanced course materials to be implemented as a part of the core curriculum in 2009. The faculty members leading this effort, with expertise in mathematics, chemistry and education, will present SENCER courses they developed that highlight modeling data in socially relevant scientific contexts and scientific literacy for pre-service middle grades teachers. Additional students, faculty, courses and materials are being identified to serve as resources for GCSU’s emerging SENCER community.

Harold Washington College
Jennifer Asimow, Tim Donahue, Jennifer Meresman, Chris Sabino

How does the national crisis of childhood obesity affect each of us? Why do we as a nation need to address this epidemic? What are ways in which we can improve the nutrition of our nation’s children? “An Integrated Study of Childhood Obesity” is a learning community, or cohort, consisting of courses in child development, developmental English/reading, and developmental mathematics in which students attempt to answer these questions. The overall goals for the cohort are two-fold: to better educate and raise awareness of the impact of childhood obesity and nutrition among Harold Washington College students, and to increase students’ interest in obesity as a public-health threat in their communities. In particular, the students examine the impact of obesity on society as a whole by focusing on childhood obesity in the context of elementary schools and their community. Each course in the cohort provides students the opportunity to examine a different aspect of this epidemic. Through their coursework, they examine general nutrition, the causes of childhood obesity, and the impact of that on their communities and the nation.

Harry S. Truman College
Yvonne Harris, Raymond Torralba, Joshua Jones, Mahesh Gurung

Truman College will design and implement the “Truman Environmental Intervention Project” in the metropolitan Chicago area, a program which will examine various environmental risks that threaten public health in the city. The project will integrate methodologies of the social sciences, chemistry, biology, and ecology to better identify the socio-cultural, environmental, and economic factors that contribute to disparities in the health of residents of various areas of the city, especially those of lower socioeconomic status. Students will take air and plant samples around the city, analyze the results, and disseminate the information and suggestions to residents and community-based organizations.

Lipscomb University
Ben Hutchinson

Lipscomb University is developing a new course appropriate for non-science majors, including education majors, which integrates physics, chemistry, biology, and nutrition. Utilizing a trans -disciplinary approach where active learning is based on significant issues or problems the course will deliver a range of learning outcomes. The concepts and ideas will draw on knowledge and methodologies from several disciplines. Case studies will involve learners in local civic issues and service learning activities. The inquiry-based lectures and laboratories will be driven and organized by the case studies.

The case studies will include (1) a study of a local river which was contaminated by a lead smelter plant in the 1960s, (2) a comparison of resistance to antiseptics and antibiotics in bacteria collected in public restrooms, and (3) assessment of local and regional HIV infection rates and trends and efficacy of current treatments. Formative and summative tools will be designed to assess various levels of cognitive learning by comparing this approach to current and continuing discipline-based courses for the same student population.

Longwood University
Charles Ross, Mark Fink, Edward Kinman, Daniel Druckenbrod, Alix Fink, Consuelo Alvarez, Glenn White, David Buckalew, Scott Cole

In the team’s campus context, the SENCER program is one of several “islands of innovation” focused on faculty development and student learning. While its conceptual linkages to those other islands are strong, in the reality of practice the linkages are tenuous and dependent upon select faculty. What then is the best approach for expanding our existing SENCER effort and maximizing its impact for faculty and students? The team seeks to not build more – or larger – isolated reform efforts but rather to develop and support a concerted effort to build bridges among them. To that end the team will develop a series of faculty development opportunities aimed at infusing progressive pedagogies and civic engagement within and among the disciplines. Their primary goals are to increase awareness and use of innovative practices; to document the benefits of development activities on faculty, the integration of outcomes into the classroom environment, and the impact on student learning in affected courses; to build momentum for our on-going SENCER effort; and to provide a model for other campuses facing similar “islands” issues.

Macon State College
Stephanie Winterrowd, Michael Winterrowd, Whitney Elmore, Don Brown

Macon State College is an open access college that has recently added four-year baccalaureate degrees to the campus curriculum. The team, a mix of faculty from the Natural Sciences and Math Division, the Social Sciences Division, the School of Education, and the Office of Academic Affairs, plans to create several SENCER courses for non-STEM majors, including linked biology and math courses which will focus on how energy is used, produced, and recycled in biological systems. Data generated from the lectures and labs in the biology course will serve as the source material for the mathematics courses. The team will disseminate information about their project to other faculty on campus regularly, and plans to present information at disciplinary conferences.

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
David Tanner, Delia Anderson, Jennifer Tebbe, Caroline Zeind

The project will research and develop an interdisciplinary course in the area of “disease and society.” It will study how epidemics have devastated societies in the past, continue to challenge social and health care resources in contemporary society, and pose new threats as globalization intensifies. It will survey the impact of epidemics in multiple spheres: (1) in the biomedical realm as basic understanding of infection, contagion and disease process; (2) in the epidemiological domains of preventive medicine, population demographics, outbreak management, and social justice; (3) in the realm of individual illness experiences and existential anxieties; and (4) in the arena of public education and health communication. It will consider the global context where new technologies, international economics, world travel, and cultural differences impact the migration and management of epidemic disease. Doctor of pharmacy students will investigate the complexities of infectious and epidemic diseases and relate these studies to their professional and civic responsibilities for disease prevention, drug development and delivery, and health care policies.

Merrimack College
Marcia Walsh, Kathleen FitzPatrick, Birgid Hopkins, Mary McHugh

The Merrimack College Department of Health Sciences plans to use the implementation award to support the development of a major curriculum that teaches science through complex public issues in health and fitness, and to community action in support of local and global health and wellness. Using the “cluster” model to underscore connections among courses, they aim to make civic engagement and social responsibility the cornerstone of their program, uniting all facets of a major educational experience that is meaningful and relevant for students. By coupling science teaching and learning to important public issues, and to civic engagement through community service and experiential learning throughout the major curriculum, their goal is to produce graduates who are professionally competent, aware of the complex issues in health and human performance, and who are prepared and inspired to serve their community.

Mount Aloysius College
Merrilee Anderson, Penny O’Connor, Barbara Cook, Julie Smith

Mount Aloysius College will create a six-credit course entitled “Environmental Advocacy: An Interdisciplinary Approach,” which links three-credit science and literature courses. The course will have a theme of Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) and will be offered in the summer of 2008 during a six-week session. Students will: (1) develop an understanding of public policy reports through integrated reading and writing, (2) collect and analyze scientific data regarding abandoned mine drainage, (3) articulate positions on community issues using appropriate scientific evidence, and (4) engage in civic responsibilities as a global citizen with regard to environmental issues. Four full-time faculty, as well as representatives of community agencies and individuals who are experts on the topic of AMD, will teach the course. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to add to the body of knowledge towards a solution that will satisfy the various constituencies involved.

Northland College
Brian Nowak-Thompson, Julia Trojanowski, Kate Siegler

The project, titled “Balancing the Pharmaceutical Marketplace Through Educational Outreach,” is aimed at raising awareness of the economic and sociopolitical factors influencing the distribution of pharmaceuticals by healthcare professionals. We will develop class activities that explore ways in which pharmaceutical companies influence both regulatory agencies and healthcare professionals to accept the validity of efficacy studies. The culminating goal is to provide a balanced appraisal of accepted prescription practices to both patients and medical practitioners.

Oberlin College
Deborah Roose, Kathy Ganske, Kathy Jaffee, Patty deWinstanley, Cindy Franz, Maureen Peters

The team is developing a required interdisciplinary, community-focused, environmental project for all students in the Oberlin Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) during their internships in public school classrooms. Yearly, in collaboration with Oberlin City School mentor teachers, they will choose an integrated environmental theme for this culminating project. All classes will have the same theme but will approach that theme from appropriate developmental and subject matter angles. Building on Oberlin College’s strong sciences and environmental studies program and GTEP’s focus on integration of curricula and working with the community, the project will center on interdisciplinary, environmental, community action.

GTEP students will be lead teachers during the project, and classes will share the results of their studies with other classes and the community. The team will publicize its assessment of public school student, teacher and public understanding and awareness of the yearly projects and changes in perception over the long-term as these projects become a mainstay of GTEP and the schools.

Oglethorpe University
Keith Aufderheide, Michael Rulison, John Nardo, J. Lynn Gieger, John Cramer, Monte Wolf, Tamara Nash

Oglethorpe University is developing a one-semester-hour class targeting second-semester freshmen. The first iteration will focus on traffic. This topic should foster exploration of the interplay between science and mathematics on the one hand, and law, politics, government, quality of life concerns and special interest groups on the other. It is through the tensions among, and interactions between, these various groups that a civic engagement connection will be made plain. To prepare for the course, the team will host a series of three seminars next spring, each focused on science and civic engagement. In the fall of 2008, they will hold an overnight retreat involving faculty and students in order to help get the course in final form. The class will be offered the first time the following spring. Half of the class meetings will involve outside guest speakers and field trips. The team expects to have a different theme each time they offer the class. Other subjects discussed for future offerings include water and energy.

An important team goal is to encourage student awareness of current events, especially those that connect with course material. They also want the students to learn to evaluate the accuracy of science and math concepts and research as they are presented in the news.

Ramapo College of New Jersey
Katarzyna Potocka

Ramapo will develop group projects for MATH 108, “Elementary Probability and Statistics,” a general education course for non-science majors. The PI will implement the SENCER approach by asking students to work in groups on mini-research projects that involve collecting real life data samples, applying learned statistical methods, and making inferences about populations. The statistical content of the projects includes confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, and linear regression. Students will choose the topics of the group projects. Students will be asked to select topics across disciplines related to a civic issue in the society that they would like to investigate. At the end of each project, each group will write a report addressed to an appropriate agency describing their findings and predictions, explaining why the group thinks the topic is important to the local or global community and how the group analyzes their research findings.

People at Tables

Roosevelt University
David Szpunar and Byoung-Sug Kim

The team from Roosevelt University will design an introductory chemistry course focusing on global warming. The course will differ substantially, however, from the current SENCER model course. The distinguishing feature of this new course is that it will align course content with the National Science Education Content Standards K-12 level. Roosevelt will bring its students to a high-need school and have them provide science lessons in a team-teaching setting focused on the unifying theme of global warming. The scientific concepts covered will include electromagnetic radiation and its absorption, the basics of chemistry including atoms, molecules, Lewis dot structures, dipole moments, as well as heat transfer and the role of temperature in the kinetic theory of gases. The project will also have a laboratory component with laboratory activities such as examining exhaust fumes with their newly acquired GC/MS and conducting experiments of IR absorption of greenhouse vs. non-greenhouse gases.

Rutgers University
Dina M. Fonseca and Terry McGuire

Rutgers will develop a three-credit required course in the Medical Entomology program that will be added to the current Masters in Public Health curriculum in the School of Public Health at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and offered to undergraduate students. This proposed collaboration between UMDNJ and the Department of Entomology at Rutgers aims to expose future public health officials to basic ecological and evolutionary principles underlying the current upsurge of infectious diseases, especially those transmitted by insect vectors (such as malaria, dengue, West Nile virus), which are the subjects of Dr. Fonseca’s research. A common sense argument is that such knowledge, if obtained by using teaching strategies that emphasize and demonstrate its usefulness, such as those espoused by SENCER, will lead to more informed and effective public health workers in the United States. The project will test this hypothesis.

Southern New Hampshire University

The team plans to complete and pilot a course on greed and environmental degradation. The course, “Greed and Globally Responsible Environmental and Economic Decisions,” demonstrates in systematic profile the relationship between consumption and the environment, and develops approaches to ecological decision-making from science, ethics, and socioeconomic perspectives. The course will confront issues of human behavior and ecological justice. It will be designed to be accessible to diverse populations. The team’s aim is to produce a flexible, modular approach that can be implemented in the public schools as well as in universities; and as workshops and seminars for civic groups, businesses, and other organizations. The pilot course will be supplemented by two faculty development workshops for high school teachers in early February 2008 and in early May 2008. These teachers will work with the State’s Department of Education to facilitate the use of this course in public schools. The course will be part of the Scholarship of Engagement initiative at SNHU that encourages students to accumulate credits for community service.

Texas Woman’s University
Richard Sheardy, Richard Jones, Cynthia Maguire, Sarah McIntire, Don Edwards, Ann Staton, Barbara Lerner

The team is changing one of the current courses, “Introduction to Environmental Chemistry: Global Perspectives,” which focuses on chemistry-based issues, into a SENCER course. They will then use this course as a model to develop a second SENCER course, “Our World at Risk: Global Issues in Science,” which will focus on biological/medical issues. Both courses will provide students with a strong scientific background and the foundation to think critically about global issues. Issues will range from global warming to stem cell research. These topics will be investigated from a macroscopic viewpoint (e.g. socio-economic) to a microscopic viewpoint (e.g. biochemical). With this integrated approach, students will explore solutions to global issues, both social and scientific. The team will provide students with a framework and a vocabulary to better understand, evaluate and discuss science-based issues.

University of South Carolina Sumter
Pearl Fernandes, Jeffrey Steinmetz, Mary Ellen Bellanca

The University of South Carolina Sumter plans to link two courses together as they have successfully done in the past, and to expand the number of courses that incorporate SENCER modules and approaches. The courses affected include “Principles of Biology” (evolution and biodiversity, freshman and sophomore pre-med, allied health, and biology majors), “General Microbiology Laboratory” (freshman and sophomore pre-med, allied health, and biology majors), “Environmental Biology” (importance of the environment and its impact on the community, freshman and sophomore non-STEM majors), “Introduction to the Environment” (connecting real world issues to scientific problems, freshman and sophomore non-STEM majors), and “Composition” (English literature based on the environment, freshman and sophomores). Students in the linked courses, “Introduction to the Environment” and “Composition” will create information brochures for Pointsett State Park that incorporate the natural history and biodiversity of the area.

West Virginia University
Jen Robertson, Michelle Richards-Babb, David Miller, Jane Caldwell, Kasi Jackson, Jim Rye

The team piloted a “Biology in the News” adaptation of a traditional non-majors biology course spring semester 2007, using cancer research and therapy as a focus for the news assignments. The goals of this project are to continue refining “Biology in the News” and to develop “In the News” modules for introductory chemistry and math courses. The team has observed that many students not only see little relevance between their coursework and the “real world,” but also seem largely unaware of that world’s current events. Developing that awareness is a vital first step in cultivating civic engagement.

Western Reserve Resource Conservation and Development Council
Glenn Odenbrett

CLEAN (Collaborative Learning for Environmental Action Network) is an initiative of the Council, whose members represent several schools in Northeast Ohio. The team plans to create an inter-institutional set of SENCER-based undergraduate courses with the theme “Water and Community.” Institution-specific versions of these courses will be developed according to the each campus’s curricular requirements, but students and faculty from these courses will form a region-wide learning community. They will conduct collaborative service-learning and community-based research projects to address Lake Erie watershed needs in Northeast Ohio that will involve and benefit the general public, the local government, and non-profit organizations.

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