As part of the WELL project, our team had the chance to teach our new course – SCIL 109 Water in Society – this past spring semester. It was an amazing opportunity work with 45 undergraduate students, both STEM and non-STEM majors from an array of programs. It was also a wonderfully enriching experience to collaborate with colleagues spanning multiple disciplines as part of our instructional team. The course touched on core hydrology concepts, exploration of contemporary real-world water-related challenges, and opportunities to communicate about both the scientific and non-scientific dimensions of these issues. Students used computer-based water modeling tools based upon authentic datasets, worked in collaborative teams on long-term projects, participated in site visits, and developed and presented infographics to attendees at an international water-focused conference. Please see our spring, 2017 syllabus and course calendar here.
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.
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.
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.