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.
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.
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.
This past week I had the opportunity to visit the KOLN/KGIN – 10/11 News studios and share a bit about the Science Literacy Initiative as part of their Pure Nebraska segment. It was a great experience, thanks to Jon and Taryn for their hospitality.