SENCER/NSF Awardees Plan New Courses, Faculty Development

Awardees of the SENCER/NSF sub-grants plan to infuse new methods into existing curricula and courses in some cases, to revise general education, or to bolster campus-based SENCER dissemination through faculty development workshops in others. These brief, detailed descriptions of project plans were submitted by each successful applicant to introduce you to the types of work that will be occurring on campuses over the two-year term of the sub-awards.

Butler University
Joseph Kirsch, Robert Holm, Stacy O’Reilly, Panos Linos, Margaret Brabant, Donald Braid

Butler University is in the process of implementing a new general education curriculum, which we call the core curriculum. One element of our new core curriculum is a junior/senior capstone course addressing issues in contemporary society. We will use the SENCER grant to support two science pilot courses that will address contemporary societal issues through civic engagement methods and serve as models for other capstone courses involving civic engagement. One course will be in the area of urban ecology, and the other course will be in the area of environmental chemistry. Our expectations are that students will apply knowledge and skills developed in the core and their majors to issues outside their normal fields. The courses will bring together faculty, students, and external professionals in a capstone learning experience. The courses will be open to all students, and supported by Butler University’s Center for Citizenship and Community.

College of Staten Island CUNY
Shaibal Mitra, Jose Ramirez, Mary O’Donnell, George Zhou, Gail Simmons

The College of Staten Island’s biggest non-majors biology course, Biology 106/107, traditionally has been taught as a canonical survey. We plan to redesign this course by focusing on the study of environmental and health-related issues relevant to our students as members of the Staten Island and New York City metropolitan communities, and by incorporating active learning techniques. Traditional content areas will continue to be emphasized, but it is our goal to stimulate interest in many topics by exploring case studies and via active learning approaches. Both our students and our instructors are exceptionally diverse. We hope to cultivate this diversity as a source of strength in our biology curriculum by drawing upon our shared experiences in a unique urban environment.

Duke University
Rochelle Schwartz-Bloom, Nicole C. Kwiek, Myra Halpin, Amy Sayle, Sherryl Broverman, Joseph Babcock, Senmiao Zhan

As demonstrated by previous SENCER model courses, complex problems in health and disease in today’s world require complex solutions far beyond a simple pill or vaccine. To illustrate this point to a new audience, we are developing a high school curriculum (Superbugs, Science, and Society) that addresses the basic science of infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, bioterrorism (e.g. anthrax, smallpox), avian bird flu, and prion disease within the context of history, social studies, epidemiology, mathematics, geography, business, ethics, art, and literature. Because the high school general curriculum, much less the science curriculum, rarely offers opportunities to examine subjects with such a relevant, interdisciplinary approach, we are poised to offer a fulfilling alternative that could restore enthusiasm in science at an age when it appears to be disappearing.

Franklin Pierce College
Fred Rogers, Frank Hubacz, Emlee Kohler, Joseph Sherwin

The Integrated Science I & II (Evolution Track) teaching team at Franklin Pierce College is undertaking a thorough-going revision of their Integrated Science I & II course sequence. Integrated Science I & II fulfills the laboratory science core requirement for non-science majors at Franklin Pierce College, and the team is designing the new course sequence around the theme of global change – specifically, Global Change – The Atmosphere (a.k.a. “Global Warming”), for this fall semester, and Global Change – The Oceans, for this coming spring semester (“Evolution”, broadly defined!). The new course, as compared to its more traditional predecessor, features more student participation and engagement in both lecture and laboratory sessions (though the terms “lecture” and “laboratory”, in their traditional senses, no longer always apply), and also includes an increased student civic engagement component as well. The team expects to be reporting out on the results of this on-going “science education experiment” at SENCER Summer Institute 2007.

Harold Washington College
Dennis Lehman, Floyd Bednarz, Will Kelley, Donyel Williams

Harold Washington College plans to use the SENCER grant to expand our Urban Asthma Project. The project considers the impact of asthma on urban communities, and includes a service-learning dimension in which college students mentor local high school students or work with the Chicago Lung Association or the Sierra Club. We will use the money to initiate a research component on urban air quality, to expand the project to other campuses in the City Colleges of Chicago, and to involve several high schools in the project.

Hofstra University
Janice Koch, Bret Bennington, Christa Farmer, Andrea Libresco

The Hofstra team is looking forward to implementing its sub-award through a multi-disciplinary approach to undergraduate geology education, freshman seminars and the themes of the IDEAS Institute public and faculty lectures. To that end we are transforming the two introductory geology courses, working with the community to do field-based research and increase community walkability, redevelop brownfields, and plan better for local community development. The first geology course will feature critical thinking directed at understanding planet Earth and civic engagement. Both Jay Labov and Barbara Tewksbury will be featured speakers of our outreach institute, IDEAS, and we will examine how we measure our success in terms of student learning.

Kapiolani Community College
Bob Franco, Judith Kirkpatrick, John Rand, Veronica Ogata, Herve Collin, Louise Pagotto, Leigh Dooley

The College’s SENCER project is entitled “Early Birds and Night Owls: Analyzzzing Sleep in Society.” Two courses, Physiology 160, The Science of Sleep, and Family Resources 230, Human Development, will be team taught. Both courses meet General Education requirements and the Human Development Course is a prerequisite for Pre-Education students and Nursing majors. Both courses will integrate new research focusing on sleep across the human life course – sleep processes and issues for children, adolescents, working adults, and the elderly. Students from both courses will collaborate on service-learning and undergraduate research projects with residents of Palolo Valley, a low income, multi-ethnic community with which the College has partnered since 1995. Our intent is to integrate the active learning available in the new College’s new STEM Learning Center (NSF and US Department of Education-funded) with community-based service-learning and undergraduate research opportunities that will have strong, positive civic impact, and enhance career training for the future Nurses and Teachers the College is preparing.

La Salle University
Margaret McManus, Diana Montague, Stefan Samulewicz, Jane Turk, Patricia Wilson

The genesis of this project arises from a perception that students do not appreciate the impact of technology on information but rather are somewhat indiscriminate in their interaction with electronic sources of information, such as the world wide web. An ability to protect the self (identity) and also to adequately evaluate and synthesize the volumes of scientific, political information that are available through myriad media sources is an essential skill in a technological age, and one that will become more necessary over time. The college age students who are the target of our new, interdisciplinary course, Search for Identity in the College-age Student, will become decision makers on both personal and public levels. This course will use the biology and psychology of the college age student as a vehicle to teach such awareness. At the end of the course students will be able to synthesize the data on brain development, identity development and development of decision making; understand how scientists determine that the timing of puberty impacts identity in the emerging adult; make informed decisions about the personal information that they give away and integrate into such decisions an awareness that such personal information may be collected with or without their consent (information awareness); and be open to information and develop the ability to interpret and evaluate the validity of the information (information literacy).

Metropolitan State University
Cynthia Kaus, Rikki Wagstrom, Todd Lafrenz, John Schneider, Thomas O’Connell

The SENCER team from Metropolitan State University is developing two general education courses in mathematics: a statistics-based course called Math for Social Justice and a modeling-based course called Math and the Environment. They will also launch a general education course in chemistry called Chemistry, Society and the Environment. To enhance the success and implementation of the proposed SENCER courses, the team will be using the SENCER-NSF sub-award to offer a SENCER workshop for community (adjunct) and resident faculty at the university. Given that about 80% of the faculty in the math and science departments are community faculty, and those community faculty are most likely to teach the non-majors courses, this workshop will prepare them to teach the proposed courses or SENCERize their own courses.

Minneapolis Community and Technical College
Cheryl Neudauer, Weiru Chang, Wendy Naughton

A group of instructors at Minneapolis Community and Technical College are working together to SENCERize chemistry and biology courses. Our students will explore the science and the civic implications of topics such as sustainable agriculture, water quality, global warming, obesity and malnutrition, air quality and alternative energy resources. As part of this exploration, we will require students to research these and other science-related topics by obtaining and evaluating information from resources outside of their course textbooks. Our goals for this approach are: (1) for students to become more aware and more knowledgeable of relevant, science-related public issues, and (2) for students to develop critical thinking and information literacy skills that will enable them to deal with public issues they may encounter in their later lives. We have several ideas for assessing the efficacy this approach, including using the SENCER SALG and (long-term) tracking students who sign up for more than one SENCERized course during their college career.

Montgomery College
Ralph Bain, Gregory Wahl, Linda Mona, Chris Haga, Marlinda Boxley

The lecture course Chemistry and Society will include aspects of physical geography in the discussion of global warming. These aspects include, for example, the implications of changing international borders, the impact of possible migrations of people and animals, and the potential consequences of such changes in North America due to global warming. Student groups will be asked to formulate scientifically valid actions that can address issues associated with global warming. Students will also explore the topic in part through writing assignments and tutoring in the Writing and Reading Center will be encouraged. The accompanying laboratory course will include experiments in soil, water, and air analyses. The water experiment is to include analyses of drinking water and the factors that influence such analyses. Students will be asked to compare and evaluate the yearly drinking water quality reports from local municipalities.

Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE)
Glenn Odenbrett

Undergraduate faculty from two-year and four-year colleges and universities affiliated with the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education will develop or revise environment-focused courses that will create “service-learning pathways” for two-year college students who plan to continue their education at one of the Council’s four-year institutions. Initially, these courses will entail providing assistance to governmental and community-based organizations dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of watersheds in the Lake Erie drainage basin of Northeast Ohio. Each semester, at least two “linked” courses from 2-year and 4-year institutions will be offered, through which students from both institutions will form a joint learning community involving service to at least one designated community partner. Joint SENCER curriculum development activities involving faculty from multiple Council institutions will also be fostered.

Northland College
Wendy Gorman, Andy Goyke, Jim Paruk, Tony Kern, Gus Smith, Jim Meeker, Mike Gardner, Mark Leach, Brian Nowak-Thompson, Rick Dowd, Dorothy Lagerroos

Northland College is bisected by Bay City Creek, which drains local farmland and parts of the City of Ashland, and flows into Lake Superior less than a mile from campus. This stream therefore provides a natural laboratory for students to examine water use and quality issues. The SENCER team at Northland plans to revise its introductory biology course to focus on water quality by having students monitor the stream water regularly at specific sites for coliforms and E. coli and coordinate with the introductory chemistry in monitoring water chemistry. The Sigurd Olsen Environmental Institute at Northland College has a long history of partnering with local city and government officials to solve environmental Problems. Our first-year students will have an opportunity to meet local officials and collect water quality data that is useful for tracking pollution and helping officials make policy decisions.

Roosevelt University
Kristen Leckrone, Robert Seiser, Barbara Gonzalez, David Szpunar, Kelly Wentz-Hunter

Roosevelt University’s mission is to “educate socially conscious citizens for active and dedicated lives as leaders in their professions and their communities.” We believe that this commitment to social justice requires the integration of civil engagement and responsibility in the STEM majors curricula. Our team’s goals are (1) to improve student learning, interest and retention in core science and mathematics courses, and (2) to increase science and math majors’ sense of civic engagement and appreciation of the social relevance of science. Our long term objective is to incorporate SENCER ideals and best pedagogical practices into the core courses taken by most 1st and 2nd year STEM majors. Approaches to course redesign will include active lecture classroom techniques, recurring science and society “threads” in lectures, example problems and assignments, service learning experiences and applications-oriented laboratories ranging from one-week units on societal or civic issues to semester-long community-based research projects.

Springfield College
Katherine Post, Jeannette Hafey, Hai Kinal, Susan Guyer, Timothy Wright, Joan Mikalson

The team is collaborating across disciplines and schools to engage students in first or second year general education science courses with the types of problems and collaborative team strategies that they will encounter in later courses and throughout their careers in the allied health sciences. While enrolled in Anatomy & Physiology, these students will tackle specific clinical scenarios that relate to their eventual professional work. Faculty will collaborate across disciplines to develop real-life scenarios solicited from advanced students, fieldwork supervisors, and graduates of the occupational therapy and athletic training programs into structured problems. The problems will be layered into the curricula in increasing complexity, as students move from A&P 1 & 2, to advanced courses including Human Anatomy 1 & 2, and beyond to clinical practice and fieldwork courses. That is, a student will repeatedly encounter the same client with, for example, asthma, or heart disease, or rheumatoid arthritis. At first, they will only be required to understand the nature of the ailment as an exception to normal function that interferes with performance. Later, students will be expected to discuss the problem with a much deeper understanding of how to work with the client, as they learn principles of professional evaluation and intervention. Eventually, they will apply these principles with real people in clinical service or research. Using a peer-led team-learning model, novice students will work within their courses and labs in small groups mentored by advanced students, who simultaneously develop teaching and leadership skills. Throughout the course progression, students will explore the balance between their personal experiences with health and illness, their “clients'” needs, and broader implications for social and health policy and practice.

Stony Brook University
Imin Kao, Gary Halada, Roy Lacey, Jeff Levinton, Jean Peden

Stony Brook University will incorporate the SENCER ideals into the teaching of one-credit courses required of all freshmen students. These courses, part of the university-wide Thematic Undergraduate Colleges, initiated in 2003, have a capped enrollment of twenty-five. The team will offer a campus-wide faculty development workshop during the fall of 2006 that will disseminate the SENCER ideals to each faculty member who teaches a UG course. Faculty will then be able to apply the methods to their chosen topics and disciplines.

University at Albany, SUNY
Rabi Musah, Hua Shi

A course entitled Viruses – Chemical Control Systems that Affect Human Life, focusing on viruses and their impact on human society, is being developed. The course will offer a multi-faceted examination of viruses such as Ebola, SARS, West Nile, HPV, and HIV, not only as microbes and pathogens, but also as vehicles for the transport of genetic materials, as evolving populations of individuals, as self-assembled nanoscale supramolecular aggregates, and as self-replicating packages of control logic. This will be followed by a wide range of case studies, each of which will connect one virus to some of the complex, capacious, and evolving public issues associated with the political, economic, religious, feminist, agricultural, medical, pharmaceutical, and socio-economic implications of its spread. Finally, one virus and the disease it causes, HIV/AIDS, will be used to provide an in-depth example of the evolution of a viral pandemic, from the molecular to the international stage, and the impact of culture, integration and limited international resource allocation on its global ascendance.

University of Dayton
Don Pair, Paul Benson, Ray Fitz, Dan Foulke, Kelly Williams

Our sub-award will support the development of a new multidisciplinary watersheds course, Watersheds and Community. It centers on the challenging issue of how the Greater Dayton, Ohio region can ensure smart, just, and sustainable land use planning, using the watershed of the Great Miami River to stimulate and focus student interest and inquiry. Our natural classroom is the 3,937 sq. mile watershed of the Great Miami River which flows through Dayton and includes the campus of the University of Dayton. The course we propose for second-year teacher education students will link course content associated with watershed education to Ohio’s science standards. Using the Great Miami watershed as a vehicle for examining a range of pressing social, economic, and environmental issues facing Dayton is particularly timely as UD is engaged in strategic planning for the development of new environmental curricula and has begun development of a Rivers Institute.

University of Hawaii, Manoa
Mary Tiles, John Cusick

Our plan for the next two years is to develop at least one transdisciplinary course to function as an introduction to sustainability studies and one transdisciplinary, project based capstone course for a yet-to-be-created sustainability studies certificate. There are currently at least three competing ideas for the introductory course. – (1) a place based, hands on introduction to the ahupua’a in which the Manoa campus resides, that integrates natural science with indigenous Hawaiian knowledge and values; (2) a mountains to the sea (the traditional ahupua’a land unit) course which introduces the physics, biology, engineering, and urban development issues of watershed, water and near shore management; and (3) a course on the energy dilemmas and opportunities in the islands – our physicists are very interested in the potential of using cold deep ocean water for air conditioning as a way of reducing energy consumption. All are good ideas and we are in the process of determining whether we have the resources to develop just one or more than one.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Robin Wright, Mark Borello, Sehoya Cotner, Cathy Kipper, Mark Decker, Bruce Fall, Jay Hatch, Murray Jensen, Randy Moore, Rick Peifer, Sue Wick

The team from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities will host a workshop in January 2007 to developing the learning outcomes and syllabi for two new biology courses for non-science majors. Currently, topics of the two courses are (1) biology, society, and the environment, and (2) evolution: science, religion, and politics. Courses are slated to be launched in the 2007-2008 academic year, and collaborators on the project plan to present the structure and outcomes on the new course locally at a University of Minnesota symposium on teaching and learning in the spring of 2008, as well as at SSI 2007/2008.

University of North Carolina at Asheville
Sally Wasileski, Karin Peterson, Amy Lanou, Leah Mathews

Food is an essential component of our daily life with a broad variety of chemical, biological, economic, social, political, and cultural issues regarding its journey from the farm to the table to giving us energy in our bodies. Our aim is to develop students as informed food consumers by providing six multidisciplinary courses in a topical cluster titled “Food for Thought”. Through these courses, students will be engaged in topics that vary from the chemistry of cooking to laypersons’ interpretation of food labels to the global economics of agriculture and food consumption to how food and nutrition affects health and disease and our self-identity. Students will have hands-on involvement through service-learning projects of nutrition promotion with community organizations and through laboratory experimentation of the chemical and physical properties of food and cooking. Measuring our success is the last goal of the project; we will be developing instruments for assessment of natural-science and social-science literacy.

University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Chris Evans, Gary Wood, Anne Statham, Carol Tebben, Shi-Hae Kim

We propose to develop learning communities for first-year students to be used as cohort funnels to improve/enhance/expedite/facilitate assimilation of new students into the civic engagement philosophies/cores/essence of the UW-Parkside campus community. We now approach all of these issues in a much more productive, enlightened fashion: the SENCER template that we’ve adopted begins with a vision of learner outcomes, and then uses our disciplines to fashion content-activities that lead to those outcomes. UW-Parkside will also host the SENCER-Midwest regional symposia in February 2007.

Whitworth College
Peter Tucker, Keith Wyma, James Waller

The focus of our project is to improve an existing course, Core 350, which all students at Whitworth College must take. It is taught by a team of eight or nine faculty from such disciplines as philosophy, psychology, computer science, biology, and physics. Core 350 is broken up into three units: in unit 1, students have a number of assignments in which they work together to address current policy issues (e.g. stem cell research); in unit 2, students work with one member of the teaching team to address current policy issues in more depth within that faculty member’s discipline; in unit 3, students consider issues of living within a community. We plan to address specific items in the first two units. For unit 1, we want to consider better approaches to the current active learning pieces, possibly considering current local issues. For unit 2, we want to attract and prepare more faculty members from the STEM disciplines to lead students through current issues. We will be holding workshops in the summer of 2007 to achieve these goals.

Posted in eNews, Post-Institute Implementation Awards, SENCER News and tagged .