It was a big summer of transition in the Forbes team, with team members moving on to next steps and new team members coming on board. Congrats to newly-minted Ph.D. Tina Vo who will begin a tenure-track position at UNLV as an Assistant Professor of Science Education in August. Dante Cisterna, UnICORN project postdoc, is also starting a new position at ETS in July. Destini Petitt completed her M.S. in the School of Natural Resources and will begin doctoral studies in the Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Ashley (McKenzie) Sutter (formerly Peterson), will leave us for a second time to return to her position with USDA. And, finally, Florian Böschl, doctoral student at the University of Leipzig in Germany, will return home after a summer in Lincoln. We wish them all the best!
Joining the team are two new SNR doctoral students, Amie Sommers and Kim Carroll-Steward, undergraduate research assistant Brooke Mott, and incoming postdoctoral researcher Ranu Roy, who recently completed her Ph.D. at Indiana University. They join a fantastic continuing group of team members, including SNR doctoral student Diane Lally, postdoc Devarati Bhattacharya, and undergraduate research assistants Holly White, Isabella Catalano, and Nancy Theodor.
In the Fall, 2016 semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach one of four large sections a required course for all CASNR students – SCIL 101 Science and Decision-Making for a Complex World. The class, re-conceptualized and redeveloped from a long-standing introductory course (AGRI/NRES 103 Introduction to Agricultural and Natural Resource Systems), involves students learning to make science-informed decisions about agriculture and natural resource issues. Comprised of four modules designed around food, energy, and water issues, SCIL 101 offers students the opportunity explore these challenges issues from multiple perspectives, ultimately conducting independent research on a question of their choosing. My section of the class this fall had 130 students, almost half of which were CASNR undergraduate students from Rwanda studying in IANR to become future agricultural leaders in their home country. I am also very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, including WELL project graduate students Diane Lally and Destini Petitt, and Science Literacy graduate student McKenzie Peterson.
Thanks to Troy Sadler, Laura Zangori, and the rest of the team with the ReSTEM Institute in the University of Missouri College of Education for a engaging and productive couple of days of collaboration with Jenny Dauer and myself. It was a great conversation around socio-scientific issues, science-informed decision-making, and science literacy in a range of K-16 contexts and across an array of unique projects. I look forward to working with ReSTEM as the external evaluation team on the Fostering Undergraduate Students’ Disciplinary Learning and Water Literacy (WELL) project, funded by an NSF IUSE grant (DUE-1609598), and the SCIL/AECN/NRES 109: Water in Society course over the next 3 years.
A new article co-authored by Jenny Dauer and I has been published in the Summer, 2016 issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal. The paper, entitled Making Decisions about Complex Socioscientific Issues: A Multidisciplinary Science Course, reports on the initial iteration of a revised version of SCIL 101, a large-enrollment, interdisciplinary, introductory undergraduate course required of all students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). The course represents a core element of programmatic efforts associated with the IANR Science Literacy Initiative to cultivate science literacy among undergraduate students at UNL.
Dauer, J. & Forbes, C. T. (2016). Making decisions about complex socioscientific issues: A multidisciplinary science course. Science Education & Civic Engagement: An International Journal, 8(2), 5-12.
Some nice press from the UNL news on our newly-funded, 3-year NSF IUSE project – Fostering Undergraduate Students’ Disciplinary Learning and Water Literacy (WELL; DUE-1609598) – which focuses on design-based research around the new SCIL/AECN/NRES 109: Water in Society course at UNL.
The funding will support the development of a new “Water in Society” undergraduate course. Water in Society will be an interdisciplinary course, drawing from the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, hydrological sciences and social and decision sciences.
“Our hope is that all UNL students, whether they’re studying to be a scientist, teacher or lawyer will have the background to make educated decisions when it comes to their food, and the Water in Society course can support that goal,” said Forbes.
I am very excited to lead a newly-funded, 3-year NSF IUSE Engaged Student Learning: Exploration project (DUE-1609598) focused on the iterative design, implementation, and study of a new, interdisciplinary course for non-majors – SCIL/AECN/NRES 109: Water in Society – at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The Fostering Undergraduate Students’ Disciplinary Learning and Water Literacy (WELL) project presents an outstanding opportunity to iteratively develop and study an innovative undergraduate STEM learning experience through design- and discipline-based education research. We are lucky to have an amazing, interdisciplinary team on board for this project, including faculty associated with UNL’s Water for Food Global Institute and two graduate students. The new course will be an integral part of a newly-established undergraduate minor – Food, Energy, & Water in Society – in CASNR, as well as a key component of a growing suite of undergraduate experiences associated with the IANR Science Literacy Initiative.
Today we wrapped up our 18-month Water for Elementary Teachers of Science in Nebraska (NE WETS) project with 2 consecutive days of workshops held at Hastings Middle School. The project provided us to opportunity to work with an amazing group of K-6 teachers from in and around Hastings, NE. Thanks go out to wonderful UNL project team members Tina Vo and Tonya Bernadt, Chad Dumas, Ph.D., HPS Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and the teachers who made the project possible.
Over the past year, our team has had the opportunity to work with teachers from Beatrice Middle School and Lourdes Central Catholic School in Nebraska City on a new pilot project using wind energy systems as a vehicle for teaching core, NGSS-based STEM concepts and decision-making about socio-scientific issues. The project involves development of a 2-week mini-unit grounded in ongoing, real-world discussions about the recently-proposed Hallam Wind farm in SE Nebraska. The mini-unit involves investigations of wind turbine design and power production, as well as analysis of stakeholder perspectives and policy issues. The curriculum was implemented in three 6th-grade classrooms this month, including those highlighted in this week’s story by the Beatrice Daily Sun. Research associated with this project, led up by SNR masters student McKinzie Peterson and conducted in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Jan Christoph Schubert from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, will investigate students’ problem-framing and science-informed decision-making about wind energy production in Nebraska. Thanks also to Chad Johnson at Nebraska Public Power District for collaborating on this project.
I was honored to be invited to speak at this year’s symposium of the Global Food Security Consortium at Iowa State University. The annual event brings together innovators in agricultural education, research, and outreach, all engaged in the grand challenge of feeding 9.6 billion by 2050. In my talk, entitled Cultivating science literacy in the nexus: Multidisciplinary STEM education across food, energy, water, I shared an overarching framework and sampling of current activities associated with the IANR Science Literacy Initiative at UNL. This was an amazing opportunity not only to share exciting work that’s happening at UNL, but to learn about scientific research and community development work being conducted around the globe to address food security issues and contribute to cultivation of sustainable food systems.
Congratulations to Molly Brandt for successfully defending her thesis study, entitled, “Exploring Elementary Students’ Agricultural and Scientific Knowledge using Evidence-Centered Design”. For the past two years, Molly has worked as a graduate assistant with the Science Literacy Initiative on STEM education projects supported with funding from USDA-NIFA and National Agriculture in the Classroom program. Her work involved developing and pilot testing assessment instruments to measure STEM-based agricultural literacy outcomes using interviews and assessment data from over 400 elementary students in school districts in Nebraska. It has been a pleasure to work with Molly as both project PI and her advisor. Molly’s thesis study was conducted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Her committee members included Drs. Krista Adams from Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education and Jennifer Keshwani from Biological Systems Engineering.