SENCER Community Gathers For 18th Summer Institute at Santa Clara University

It has now been eighteen years since the first SENCER Summer Institute was held at Santa Clara University. Few of us who attended that first meeting would have believed that the project would still be going strong in 2018, that we would all be together AGAIN! We would also be happily surprised that so many unforeseen and exciting new “branches” have added to the original SENCER tree, including our cross-sector projects in informal science education (SENCER-ISE), mathematics (Engaging Mathematics), Engineering (Science and Technology for Social Good), and the integration of indigenous and western scientific knowledge (Transcending Barriers to Success) to name just a few.

In those early days many of us felt, on good days, like pioneers, on bad days, like outliers, arguing that teaching “through” civic questions could not only support rigorous (and not “watered down”) STEM education, but also achieve a wider range of learning goals, dispositions, and outcomes than traditional courses. Thanks to a critical mass of cognitive science and learning research, assessment data, major investments in pedagogical innovation, and the incontrovertible fact that both faculty and their students find SENCER approaches both enjoyable and meaningful, those days are behind us. SENCER now has formed formal and informal collaborations with a remarkable range of private and public educational entities and STEM advocacy organizations that recognize the value in our strategy and the impact of our “community of transformation.”

A collaborative effort at SSI that we hope will catalyze future work is Thinking Like Leaders: A Systems Approach To Improving Introductory Level Courses. This 3-Session Workshop was organized by SENCER Sr. Fellow Jay Labov and co-sponsored by SENCER, the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), and the Board on Life Sciences of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It will use introductory biology as a primary focus, with the recognition that changes to these courses could be extended to, and have profound impacts on other disciplines. Featured presenters and facilitators include national leaders in science education and curricular reform: Bruce Alberts, University of California, San Francisco, Jay Labov, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Jacki Reeves-Pepin, National Association of Biology Teachers, George Boggs, Palomar College, and the American Association of Community Colleges (emeritus), and Gordon Uno, University of Oklahoma

The conveners request that attendees consider joining all three sessions and that they sign up to ensure the program meets the needs of the participants (See “SSI Special programs on SENCER Summer Institute web page)

Long-time leaders in SENCER continue to innovate and break new ground. Sustainability Cross-Disciplinary Conversations will feature the work of SENCER co-PI Cathy Middlecamp and graduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison creating activities and resources for using your campus as a living laboratory for sustainability. The three sessions will address the sustainability challenges of Energy, Food, and Trash

Diversity and inclusion continue to be a growing focus of STEM educational reform and of SENCER’s programming, and a number of sessions address the challenge of engaging and supporting underserved minority students. Here a just a few:

Plenary Presentation: Perspectives on Inclusive Teaching
Omar Quintero, University of Richmond

Building an Inclusive Classroom, or “Why doesn’t the black/female/latinx/URM student in my class ask more questions?”

Sherryl Broverman, Duke University

Using Indigenous Knowledge to form Scientific Hypotheses: An Effective Strategy to Engage Native Hawaiian Undergraduate Students in STEM Education

Michael Ross, Kapiolani Community College

Transcending Boundaries and Monitoring Change: Resilience and Adaptation throughout the Yukon River Watershed

Larry Duffy, University of Alaska Fairbanks

“STEM Learning is Everywhere!” as they say and NCSCE continues to grow its activities and cross-sector collaborations in Informal Science Education. Our intrepid guides in this enterprise, Marsha Semmel and David Ucko, will host an informal session SENCER-ISE: Help Guide the Next Steps inviting participants to share their experience with cross-sector partnerships and to explore new opportunities and directions for collaboration and programming. Following this session there will be a field trip to leading institution committed to community-based informal science education, The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. Tim Ritchie, President and CEO of The Tech will give a the third Plenary Presentation: Community Involvement and Participation Advancing Learning and Civic Engagement.

These are just some of the many highlights of SSI 2018, which will also have outstanding offerings on assessment, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), curricular change, and professional development, all in the context of advancing science education and civic engagement. We hope you will be among those joining in Santa Clara, but if not we will keep you updated and informed about new programs, projects, and opportunities during the coming year.

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