On Thursday, March 17th, we had the pleasure to host Dr. Troy Sadler from the University of Missouri at UNL to engage our community in discussions around science literacy and STEM education as part of our ongoing Science Literacy Initiative Seminar Series. Dr. Sadler is Professor of Science Education in the College of Education’s Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum and Director of the ReSTEM (Reimagining & Researching STEM Education) Institute. His invited presentation, entitled, Socio-scientific Issues as a Central Element of Scientific Literacy: Toward a Framework for K-16 Teaching and Learning, was held in Henzlik Hall on UNL’s City Campus. We are deeply appreciative of Dr. Sadler’s time, his willingness to learn about STEM education and discipline-based education research being conducted at UNL, and his incredibly helpful insights and feedback to help advance these efforts.
We are enormously grateful for the generous support recently provided to the Science Literacy Initiative by Farm Credit Services of America. This $100,000 gift will have a significant impact on IANR’s ability to advance the initiative’s goals and objectives with a particular emphasis on K-12 STEM programming. It is wonderful to continue working to build capacity for this initiative with the strong backing of our partners and stakeholders.
This month we were lucky to be able to host Eleanor (Elly) Vandegrift as a visiting scholar at UNL. Elly is the Associate Director of the Science Literacy Program (SLP) and a Senior Instructor in Biology at the University of Oregon (UO). The UO SLP is an institutional effort, originally funded by an HHMI grant, to help science faculty transform the classes they offer to non-science majors to foster science literacy. Her trip to UNL was part of the 2015 Science Literacy Initiative Seminar Series, which has been ongoing in May. While on campus, she had the opportunity to engage with the Science Literacy team, give an invited presentation, and facilitate a faculty development workshop on effective undergraduate science instruction. The visit was highly informative and productive, particularly to learn about the SLP at UO, which provides a model for our own postsecondary STEM education efforts in IANR. We look forward to continued discussions with Elly and future collaborations to advance larger-scale science literacy efforts in higher education contexts.
During the month of August, IANR and UNL hosted Jan C. Schubert, Ph.D. as a visiting scholar from Germany. Dr. Schubert is Professor for Geographical and Geoscience Education at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. During his stay, he gave an invited presentation as part of the 2015 Science Literacy seminar serites, entitled, How does German schnitzel effect the environment? Preparing students and teachers for a scientifically-literate society through STEM-based education, in which he shared information and research focused on an environmental science course for preservice secondary science teachers in Germany. Dr. Schubert’s work provides a model for innovative STEM teacher education efforts at the undergraduate level that integrate experiences with science, scientific research, and pedagogy. During his stay, he was also able to participate in teacher professional development workshops associated with the TASRs program, observe AGRI 103, and work collaboratively on a new project focused on research and development on 6th-grade students’ STEM-informed decision-making about wind energy. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with Dr. Schubert and future opportunities to work together and learn from one another.
Thanks to a fantastic group of elementary teachers for all their hard work in this first summer of the Water for Elementary Teachers of Science (Nebraska WETS) project. We had a great workshop series in June and August of this summer focused on scientific modeling, formative assessment, and water science. The summer component was also offered as graduate course credit (NRES 898 – Teaching and Learning about Water Systems). We appreciate the support of Hastings Public Schools for being a wonderful district partner and allowing us access to amazing facilities at Hastings Middle School.
It has been a pleasure to host Mike Barnett as a visiting scholar at UNL over the past few days. Dr. Barnett is Professor of Science Education and Technology in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. As the inaugural participant in the 2015 Science Literacy Initiative Seminar Series, he had an opportunity to give an invited presentation, entitled Seeding the Future: Examining learning about urban ecosystems through learning technologies and community partnerships. Dr. Barnett also engaged with faculty and students from both East and City campuses, contributed to faculty working groups convened in support of the Science Literacy Initiative, and even got to visit Nine-Mile Prairie with Dave Wedin, Doug Golick, and myself. It was wonderful to learn of the great work Dr. Barnett and his team are doing at BC. We all appreciate his willingness to travel to Lincoln immediately after returning from a week-long trip to China.
Kamyar Enshyan, Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa, has an interesting op-ed piece in yesterday’s Des Moines Register. Talking about the widespread emphasis on STEM and STEM education, Enshyan observes a certain selectiveness with which knowledge and insights gained from STEM research are applied. He concludes:
It is hard to take STEM talks seriously if so much of what we already know from science is ignored routinely on matters vital to our health, the land and our economy.
Enshyan’s critique is directed primarily at policymakers and industry leaders, but the implications are much broader. Having good information and access to it may not be sufficient. It is also critical that we account for how STEM knowledge is used in the various economic, political, and social spheres of life in pursuit of particular goals and outcomes. This, of course, requires systemic, usable science literacy among individuals in all of these groups.
Here’s a very accessible and nicely-done article that weighs the pros and cons of various approaches to agricultural production. The author emphasizes the importance of tradeoffs in assessing the impact of growing certain commodities using conventional or organic methods, including not only the use of synthetic fertilizers, but also water use, transportation, and consumer demand. Some interesting information about avocados.
An article in this week’s Lincoln Journal Star highlights the work we’re doing as part of the National Center for Agricultural Literacy. This initial phase of the center’s life will lay the foundation for longer-term work to support nationwide K-12 science and ag literacy efforts in partnership with the Agriculture in the Classroom program. We’re looking forward to our upcoming summer program linking high school science teachers with IANR researchers to produce science instructional materials grounded in ag and natural resource topics and issues.