SENCER Summer Institute 2023

August 3-6, 2023

NCSCE Basic Members get 50.00 discount on registration, so membership pays for itself!  Before you register, join HERE!

Member Registration, 100.00

Non-Member Registration, 150.00

Members will be invited to attend a members-only meeting before the start of the Institute. 


This year’s SENCER Summer Institute will again take advantage our continuing virtual environment and combine synchronous and asynchronous content. Institute programming will be held online from August 3 through August 6, 2023. A Zoom link will be sent to registrants before the meeting.

Our theme for this year’s Institute is:


Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) was launched in 2001 with the mission of improving STEM learning for all students, but importantly, to ensure that our efforts produce (in the words of the founding PI, David Burns) “Knowledge to Make our Democracy.” Two decades later, and since the assault on the US Capitol, there is no longer any question that US democracy is in crisis. Racial, economic, social, and political divisions are growing. Media manipulation, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and strategic court rulings have allowed an explicitly anti-democratic minority to disproportionately influence public discourse, law, and policy, a situation accelerated by a lack of public understanding of the basic elements of American governance.  

The ability to use empirical reasoning and evidence to guide action—what John Dewey called “the scientific habit of mind”– is a critical capacity for citizens in a democracy. SENCER has always maintained that science learning was a powerful and foundational context for civic education, and essential for effective civic agency in a democracy.  But science education can never meet this challenge if it is practiced as the transmission of “facts.” Science education can only contribute to the effort of building civic capacity if the connections between content and context, inquiry and action, knowledge and responsibility, are clear and relevant to the learner.

Deploying science learning in the service of the long-term collective goals of democracy–including equity, justice, and community well-being–and not solely short-term workforce needs and starting salaries, will require profound curricular and pedagogical reform. It will also require value-driven academic leadership that supports faculty committed to ensuring STEM education IS civic education.  This year’s SENCER Institute will showcase innovative strategies that educators are using to advance both science AND civic learning.  We hope you will participate and share your efforts with a community of transformative practice that is SENCER.


Confirmed Plenary Sessions:

Opening Keynote, Thursday, August 3, 4:40 EST

John L. Rudolph


Rethinking Science Education for the Future

Few people question the importance of science education in American schooling. It’s the key, after all, to economic growth, develops the ability to reason more effectively, and enables us to solve everyday problems. Good science teaching results in all these benefits and more—or so we think. But what if all this is simply wrong? What if the benefits we assume science education produces turn out to be an illusion, nothing more than wishful thinking? In this talk, Rudolph examines the reasons we’ve long given for teaching science and assesses how they hold up to what we know about what students really learn in science classrooms and what research tells us about how people actually interact with science in their daily lives. The results may be surprising. ​Instead of more and more rigorous traditional science education to fill the STEM pipeline, Rudolph challenges us to think outside the box of traditional instruction and makes the case for an expansive science education aimed instead at rebuilding trust between science and the public—something desperately needed in our current era of impending natural challenges and science denial.

John L. Rudolph is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Science Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His main area of research focuses on the history of science education in American high schools. He also writes about issues related to the nature of science in the present-day school curriculum and on how the history, philosophy, and sociology of science have been used in science education research. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in curriculum and instruction and history of science. Prior to his current appointment, he spent a number of years teaching physics, chemistry, and biology in middle schools and high schools across Wisconsin. In addition to his position in C&I, he has affiliate appointments in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and the Robert and Jean Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies. He is past editor-in-chief of the Wiley & Sons journal Science Education and National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. 

Closing Keynote, Sunday, August 6

Cathy Manduca

Education for a Sustainable and Just Society – Linking Values, Equity, Science and Action

Science and Civic Engagement is a corner stone of education for a sustainable and just society.  This talk will reflect on the foundational values and principles of NCSCE are how they are tied to the broader goals of STEM education and of higher education.  Viewed in this context what do we learn about our own practices and our role in contributing to the larger goal of higher education for a sustainable and just society. 

Dr. Cathy Manduca founded the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College in 2001 and served as Director until 2020.  SERC supports communities of educators in improving education through peer learning and creation of on-line resources.   This work included a strong emphasis on Earth education and its relationship to societal issues.  Dr. Manduca’s scholarship  focuses on understanding faculty learning and strategies for improving teaching practice. She has also written about the nature of geoscience expertise and the scope and purpose of geoscience education. Currently her interests include community-scale educational ecosystems and the role of education in creating a sustainable, just communities and society.

Dr. Manduca was the Executive Director of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers from 2007 to 2019. She served on the Board on Science Education for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as in the elected leadership for the American Geophysical Union and AAAS Education Section . She is a fellow of the AAAS, the American Geophysical Union, and the Geological Society of America, and past recipient of the American Geophysical Union’s award for Excellence in Earth and Space Education.  She received her B.A. in Geology from Williams College and Ph.D. in Geology from the California Institute of Technology

Plenary Sessions:

Building Community, Organizing for Change: The Importance of Systems Thinking

Presented by Don Greer of Greer Black Company, Albert Linderman, PhD, of Sagis Corporation and Jonathan Bucki of the Dendros Group.

Using their broad experience in supporting non-profit organizations in achieving durable, systemic, change, the professionals of the Dendros Group have guided the National Center’s strategic planning and leadership development since 2011.  They have supported our efforts to build mission-driven, values-centered leadership and planning efforts aligned with the goals and ideals of our educational “community of transformation.

In this most challenging and volatile time for educational institutions, this presentation will explore emerging strategies and models that illuminate the critical role of systems thinking in managing and achieving durable and lasting change using the example of a Collective Impact initiative in Rapid City, South Dakota. The team will consider how models can be an important tool for learning, challenging assumptions and identifying high-leverage variables in the systems we hope to impact.

Science Education as a Human and Civil Right: The Responsibility of Scientists

Jessica Wyndham

For over a decade Jessica Wyndham lead the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights, and Law Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), first as Associate Director, and then as Director.  She is an internationally recognized expert on Human Rights Law and has written widely on the power and potential of the right to science for empowering individuals, strengthening communities, and improving the quality of life

The Wickedest Problem: The Global Civic Challenge of Water

Bhawani Venkataraman and Davida Smyth

Bhawani Venkataraman is Associate Professor of Chemistry at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School and a SENCER Scholar broadly supporting our work in water education and research. Her research is in the field of chemical education and science communication. Her new book Paradox of Water, explores the intersection of the scientific, social, and policy implications around access to safe drinking water. 

Davida Smyth is Associate Professor of Biology at Texas A&M-San Antonio and the Deputy Director of SENCER.  Davida’s current research focuses on wastewater epidemiology to monitor for infectious disease.  She is currently leading a funded initiative at NCSCE to extend economical and effective wastewater research to under-resourced communities in the global south. 



Virtual Conference and Showcase – Connecting Indigenous and Western Knowledge was held April 23-25th, 2021.

Full program

Download (PDF, 172KB)

For more information, contact [email protected]

Transcending Barriers: Connecting Indigenous and Western Knowledge

To mark the conclusion of the Wm. M. Keck funded project “Transcending Barriers to Success: Connecting Indigenous and Western Knowledge,” the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement will host an on-line conference to feature work done by the project partners, and to highlight many other initiatives and efforts taking place to advance inquiry, research, and education that honor indigenous knowledge, and connect indigenous, local, and “Western” knowledge systems in order to work towards effective and equitable solutions for the important and contested issues of our time. For more information go to

Past meeting:  MidAtlantic SENCER Regional Center for Innovation


As scientists, science educators, and science communicators, we employ narrative in a variety of ways to shape the stories we tell about our work. Narrative can be a powerful way to connect the public to the work that we do. This virtual SENCER conference will focus on the many ways we can use narrative to teach science and engage the public. Please join us to share your ideas, learn form each other and network!

We are currently accepting abstract submissions for Interactive Workshops, Discussions/Panels, and Posters focusing on “Narrative in Science.” The virtual conference will be held in January 16,2021. We anticipate a schedule that runs from about 11 am thru 4 pm EST. Information and Conference Description Here