New funding from a USDA-NIFA C1 Higher Education Challenge grant (grant no. 2020-70003-30928/project accession no. 1021842) will provide continued support for the WELL project, SCIL 109, and our team’s work in undergraduate education. Over the next 3 years, in collaboration with a team from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette led by Emad Habib, we will develop, implement, and evaluate a new undergraduate curriculum module grounded in an innovative, online, data-driven tool – HydroViz – through which undergraduate students use national water datasets to explore, explain, reason, and make decisions about contemporary socio-hydrological challenges in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus (FEW-Nexus). The pilot-tested, research-based instructional module will then be disseminated to undergraduate instructors nationwide (Year 3) in the form of faculty development workshops, designed around core tenets of effective undergraduate STEM instruction, to support their implementation of these new resources in their own undergraduate courses. The new USDA-NIFA funding reflects the next phase of our ongoing work supporting undergraduate students socio-hydrologic reasoning through the use of data-driven, computer-based water systems modeling tools as a core feature of the SCIL 109 course. Check out the SNR media release about the new project!
Over the past two years, I have been working with an amazing group of colleagues to cultivate and establish a transdisciplinary community of educators and education researchers who focus on the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus. In May, we were fortunate enough to be able to take the next major step forward in this endeavor. Through funding through the USDA-NIFA Higher Education Challenge grant program, APLU’s Network of STEM Education Centers Research Action Cluster grant program, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Virginia Tech, we were able to hold an invited conference with nearly 50 participants from over 40 U.S. and international institutions. The conference – Innovating Teaching and Learning in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus: Toward a National Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Systems Education (NC-FEW) – was held May 22-23 in the Washington, D.C. metro area at the Virginia Tech Executive Briefing Center. Conference participants had opportunities to share their research and engage with colleagues from a diverse array of disciplinary backgrounds (education, STEM disciplines, agriculture, natural resources) to articulate and shape discourse around a systemic approach to FEW-Nexus education and education research. We benefited tremendously from insights of invited speakers, including INFEWS program officers Rachel Melnick (USDA-NIFA) and Tom Torgersen (NSF), Kacy Redd (APLU/NSEC), and Jeff Weld (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy). A special thanks to Co-PIs and conference planning committee members Hannah Scherer, Hui-Hui Wang, Nicole Sintov, and Kelly Millenbah for helping plan and facilitate the conference, as well as staff from the UNL Center for Science, Math, and Computer Education (CSMCE). We look forward to next steps advancing the goals and priorities of this developing network.
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.