SENCER Summer Institutes

21th SENCER SUMMER INSTITUTE ON-LINE August 5-August 22, 2021


The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement and the SENCER project will be taking advantage of our continuing virtual meeting format and combine synchronous and asynchronous programming spread over 3 weeks, from August 5-22.  Our theme for 2021 is Climate Justice. TO REGISTER GO HERE

We now know that a warming climate is our greatest global-civic challenge. It is the “existential” threat to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. Climate justice is the recognition that the adverse impacts of climate change are not equitable, and fall disproportionately on marginalized and underserved communities. Addressing climate change will require STEM knowledge, but its inequitable social, political, economic, and public health impacts will demand much more, the kind of multidisciplinary and systemic inquiry reflected in the SENCER ideals. To support educators in modifying existing courses and creating new curricula focused on this critical problem, the SENCER Summer Institute is focusing on Climate Justice for its 2021 programs.

  • Workshops – Our workshops will feature teams of experienced SENCER experts working with groups of faculty in breakout rooms. Workshop participants who fulfill all requirements will receive a SENCER certificate of completion. Workshops will run for two afternoons and be held from 1:00-4:00pm (Eastern) on the specified days : 
    • SENCER 101 – for new attendees, we will introduce you to the basics of backward course design using SENCER civic engagement principles and outcomes. Participants will produce a draft syllabus for a SENCER course. (August 5-6)
    • SENCER 102 – for experienced SENCER instructors, this session will focus on improving  your existing SENCER course through the incorporation of inclusive syllabus design, high-impact practices, and learner centered assessment strategies that will build evidence for student learning. Revised and peer-reviewed courses will be ready for inclusion in a faculty teaching portfolio. (August 7-8)
    • Aligning the General Education curriculum with SENCER ideals – this workshop will feature faculty connected to the new national “Improvement of General Education Life Sciences Courses” (IGELs) network. (August 14-15)
    • Designing a Climate Justice SENCER interdisciplinary module – In this workshop participants will develop a climate justice focused module that could be inserted into an existing course in a range of disciplines and course levels. (August 21-22)
  • Panels – Panels are scheduled from 4-6 on the days indicated and will feature both external experts and practitioners from within our SENCER community: 
    • The STEM Learning Ecosystem: Formal, Informal, and Life-long learning (Jay Labov, Dave Ucko) August 6
    • Indigenous Knowledge and STEM (Ulla Hasager and participants from the UHawaii System) (TBA)
    • Misinformation and STEM: Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy (Participants in an NSF RAPID funded project) August 12
    • The Role of Disciplines in Advancing Civic Engagement: Chemistry, Climate Change, and Sustainability (Cathy Middlecamp, Matt Fisher) August 13
    • Social Justice, Diversity, Inclusion: What the Research Shows (Bryan Dewsbury, Pat Marsteller, Juan Garibay, Sherryl Broverman) August 14
  • Digital Poster Sessions and Recorded Presentations (with Q&A time with presenters) will also be scheduled.



We welcome proposals for poster and recorded video presentations at this year’s SENCER Summer Institute, to be held online from August 5 through August 22, 2021. 


We especially encourage proposals that address educational efforts that address climate justice.  Formats are: 

  • Posters (should be submitted as pdf)
  • Recorded sessions – each recording should be 5-10 minutes long and will be uploaded to our SENCER youtube channel after the meeting. Additional instructions for submitting posters and recorded presentations for SSI are at:

Synchronous poster presentation sessions and 20 minute  presentation slots for video presenters will be scheduled to allow for Q&A and further discussion of presentations.  See proposal submission form.


The 2020 SENCER Summer Institute WAS redesigned as a virtual meeting July 30-August 2, 2020. It featured asynchronous and synchronous presentations, videos, workshops, and keynotes    FOR MORE INFORMATION, PROGRAM DETAILS, AND RESOURCES  CLICK HERE!


The 2019 SENCER SUMMER INSTITUTE was held at Case Western Reserve University August 1-4


Here is full program book for this year’s meeting:

Download (PDF, 5.46MB)

For presentations, posters, and other materials that participants offered to share, click HERE

Remembering David L. Ferguson

Photo Gallery

Case Western Reserve University

The 2019 SENCER Summer Institute (SSI) was hosted by Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, August 1-4, 2019.

SSI is the cornerstone of NCSCE’s faculty development efforts, and brings together formal and informal educators, learners, and community and government partners for over 60 plenaries, workshops, and other sessions that support STEM learning that is meaningful, interdisciplinary, and durable–advancing a lifelong engagement with the science and technology challenges that are so central to our democratic future.   

In addition to our core focus on effective pedagogy and course design for science and civic engagement, the Institute program explored collaborations and partnerships that advance STEM learning and build our civic capacity for addressing the critical challenges facing our democracy. The Institute is designed for both individuals and teams working on curricular designs and programming with special attention to: 

  • STEM, the arts, and humanities
  • Diversity, inclusion, and social justice in STEM
  • Partnership Power–leveraging community partnerships to advance learning
  • Assessment for STEM learning and Civic Engagement
  • SENCER approaches in Engineering from K-12 to professional programs
  • SENCER strategies for K-12 curricula, and Community Colleges 

Archived Summer Institute Information

2018 SENCER Summer Institute

The 2018 SENCER Summer Institute (SSI) was hosted by Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California on August 2-5, 2018.

The theme for SSI 2018 was Civic Engagement and the STEM Learning Ecosystem. In addition to our core focus on effective pedagogy and course design, the Institute program explored and focusd on other themes in the STEM learning ecosystem, including:

  • Cross disciplinary conversations on sustainability
  • Engineering education
  • Indigenous studies
  • Diversity and inclusion in 2018
  • Equity and science education for all
  • The Next Generation Science Standards and informal science
  • Strengthening the liberal arts: humanities, social sciences and STEM in partnership, and
  • Service learning

SSI 2018 Selected Presentations
You can view materials from selected SSI 2018 presentations here as part of our digital library.

SSI 2018 Program Book

Download (PDF, 1.21MB)

2017 SENCER Summer Institute

Stony Brook University LogoThe 2017 SENCER Summer Institute (SSI) was hosted by Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York on August 3-6, 2017.

We are excited to deliver an Institute program which will address issues of critical importance for the SENCER community. In addition to the newest iterations of core sessions on course design and research-based approaches to learning, we were proud to host a slate of plenary speakers to lead the program and address a variety of these critical areas, including:

  • conversations about the changing landscape for civic engagement as a pedagogical approach,
  • educational synergies between STEM and the humanities,
  • strategies for scaling STEM education reform efforts,
  • challenges related to diversity and inclusion in science, and
  • examples of the impact of SENCER practice on career advancement.
Read about the SSI 2017 Plenary Speakers       SSI 2017 Schedule and Program Information

Beyond these main sessions, we remain committed to ensuring that the program responds to your needs as educators. The SSI 2017 registration process provided a sense of the interests, goals, and talents, that you bring to the Institute, along with with the logistical information needed to make your experience comfortable and enjoyable. Participants were able to propose a poster or concurrent session as part of the registration process.

Those of you who are new to the Institute can view the SSI 2017 New Participant Orientation recording below.

Watch the SSI 2017 New Participant Orientation
2016 SENCER Summer Institute

Roosevelt University

The 2016 SENCER Summer Institute was hosted by Roosevelt University from July 28th – August 1, 2016.

The central theme of this year’s Institute was transformation. Transformation is expressed throughout several facets of our work in 2016, from the continued progress in our SENCER, SENCER-ISE and Engaging Mathematics projects to our pursuit of opportunities emerging from new partnerships and initiatives, and our organization being profiled in a recent USC monograph by Adrianna Kezar and Sean Gehrke as a Community of Transformation in STEM reform.

The major aims for this year’s program included conversations about the STEM reform ecosystem, examples of SENCER work on campus and of the SENCER approach in real-world problems, and assessment of SENCER work. Other topics covered in the 2016 program include:

  1. Civic Intersections of STEM and Humanities
  2. Communities of Transformation: Maximizing Impact
  3. Public Engagement with Science
  4. Foregrounding Quantitative Literacy in Civic Life
  5. Science and Technology for Social Good
  6. Leading Change: Aligning Institutional and Personal Priorities

Program Book

Download (PDF, 2.5MB)

2015 SENCER Summer Institute

Alden Hall WPIThe 2015 SENCER Summer Institute was hosted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute from July 30th – August 3, 2015.

2015 marked the 15th SENCER Summer Institute and the 15th anniversary of SENCER, an occasion which gave us the opportunity to collectively reflect on where SENCER has been and on the direction of SENCER going forward.

The past 15 years of SENCER have yielded important accomplishments toward our goal of expanding civic capacity by applying the science of learning the learning of science. More than 2,500 educators and students from over 500 institutions from 45 states and 9 countries have participated in our annual Summer Institutes and Washington Symposia. Our efforts have resulted in 50 model courses, curricular approaches to improve science learning, 16 backgrounders, syntheses of the issues we use to teach science, and nearly 100 papers in our International Journal. All of this in the service of the many thousands of students, faculty, and communities impacted by the work of the National Center through educators’ participation in these endeavors.

SENCER’s path forward includes several new approaches toward accomplishing our goals. In addition to continuing work on the SENCER-ISE, and Engaging Mathematics initiatives, we are identifying further outgrowths for SENCER programs. We are also identifying new opportunities for participation in SENCER symposia, both at the regional level, through a focus on our regional SENCER Centers for Innovation, and with new national meetings in the coming years to further develop SENCER practitioners.

Program Book

Download (PDF, 4.16MB)

2014 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2014The 2014 SENCER Summer Institute was hosted by the University of North Carolina Asheville from July 31 – August 4, 2014.

The program for the Institute included all-Institute plenary sessions, workshops on effective pedagogies, examples of successful campus and community applications, and opportunities to meet formal and informal educators, administrators, students, and others from across the country interested in contributing to a civically engaged society and the improvement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

In response to suggestions made on the SSI 2013 evaluations, we also introduced an orientation program to the Summer Institute, held just prior to the opening plenary address and gala welcome dinner on July 31. The program included discussions on the history of SENCER, the theory behind our work and initiatives, and how to make the best of all that the Institute offers.

The Institute program also featured many opportunities for participants to present information on their own work to improve STEM education, including concurrent sessions and two poster sessions, one focusing on community programs, and another focusing on campus programs. SENCER provided teams the opportunity for personal consultations with leaders to work intensely on the implementation of team-planned project(s).

2013 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2013The 2013 SENCER Summer Institute was held from August 1-5 in California, hosted by Santa Clara University. Santa Clara University (SCU) has been an integral part of SENCER since 2001, and has hosted several Summer Institutes.

Santa Clara is also the host institution for the SENCER Center for Innovation-West, co-directed by Amy Shachter and Steve Bachofer. SCU faculty and administrators have applied the SENCER approach in impressive ways, and will be sharing the results of that work with colleagues at the Institute.

During the Institute, SENCER offered sessions designed particularly for the needs of newcomers, and those with advanced experience. A suite of follow-up activities for teams supported the post-Institute work back on campus during the fall following SSI 2013.

SSI 2013 RosesThe Institute program also featured many opportunities for participants to present information on their own work to improve STEM education, including concurrent sessions and a poster reception. Networking opportunities and designated team time, often noted by past participants as two of the most valuable parts of the Institute, were prioritized in planning. Specific sessions were determined based on needs and interests of invited participants. SENCER provided teams the opportunity for personal consultations with leaders to work intensely on the implementation of team-planned project(s).

In addition to the programming detailed above, the Institute featured sessions on programs such as the newly announced SENCER-ISE II project, new collaborations with national organizations, reflections on science and human rights, lessons learned from activities of the SCEWestNet (funded by the Keck Foundation), new SENCER regional centers, a program with Magna Publications to create faculty development support webinars, and more.

2012 SENCER Summer Institute

August 2-6, 2012SSI 2012

Santa Clara University (CA)

The annual SENCER Summer Institute is an opportunity for a community of educators, administrators, students, and community leaders to gather to consider how best to engage students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics and the civic issues in which they play an integral role.

The 2012 SENCER Summer Institute will be held in Santa Clara, CA and hosted by Santa Clara University.

The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement invites participation by educators, administrators, and students who believe they can benefit by learning about the SENCER approach and from involvement in the SENCER community.

We welcome teams in varying stages of planning, development, or revision of courses or programs, as well as those interested in sharing results of established projects. All disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences, are represented at the Institutes.

2011 SENCER Summer Institute

Hosted by Butler UniversitySSI 2011, Indianapolis, IN

The annual SENCER Summer Institute is an opportunity for a community of educators, administrators, students, and community leaders to gather to consider how best to engage students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics and the civic issues in which they play an integral role.

The 2011 SENCER Summer Institute was held in Indianapolis, IN, and hosted by Butler University. Faculty from Butler University have been deeply involved with SENCER for several years, and have applied the approach of connecting course content to civic issues across the curriculum. A team of faculty from Butler were also honored for their work with the 2010 team William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science.

The Institute featured presentations by educators, administrators, and students from across the United States, representing a diverse set of disciplinary backgrounds and selected civic issues. Institute speakers included Dr. Jamie Merisotis (Lumina Foundation), Dr. Lynn Luckow (Craigslist Foundation), Dr. Barbara Tewksbury (Hamilton College), Dr. Catherine Hurt Middlecamp (University of Wisconsin Madison), and Dr. Jay Labov (National Research Council).

We invite you to explore some of the many resources that emerged from the Institute that are linked on this page. If you have any questions about these or participation in future Institutes, please do not hesitate to contact SENCER staff.

2010 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2010Hosted by the University of North Carolina at Asheville

SENCER welcomed nearly 300 invited participants and facilitators to the 2010 SENCER Summer Institute at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. As always, the Institute featured thought-provoking sessions, vibrant discussion, and energetic planning for the coming academic year. 180 SSI participants were new to SENCER, and about 55 of these newcomers were associated with the GLISTEN (Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network) Collaborative Clusters. Participants represented two- and four-year colleges and universities, community organizations and other non-profit groups, and government agencies. Alumni participants included Debra Meyer (South Africa), Mzia Zhvania and Nadezhda Japaridze (Republic of Georgia), who offered a session with Karen Oates on international SENCER initiatives and partnerships.

The tenth SENCER Summer Institute (SSI) addressed both new directions and recognized work being done on campus at every level of adaptation and development. Plenary speakers David Burns and Barbara Tewskbury particularly focused on the history and growth of two programs over ten years, SENCER and On the Cutting Edge, in their talks on July 29 and July 30, respectively. In her welcoming remarks from the National Science Foundation, Karen Oates discussed the idea and importance of community relevant to SENCER and encouraging change.

Another plenary session addressed an area of great interest for educators developing SENCER courses and programs, climate change and its impacts. Sharon LeDuc of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, Jay Labov of the National Research Council, and Cathy Middlecamp of the University of Wisconsin-Madison led the discussion that touched on the current state of climate change and recollections of applications of the topic to courses. A plenary symposium led by Ellen Goldey and Byron McCane of Wofford College addressed a topic of growing importance to the SENCER community, the inclusion of students in curriculum and program development. Eleven students with varying backgrounds, institutional affiliations, and experiences with SENCER joined Goldey and McCane to share their thoughts and engage in a discussion with participants on the topic. Please see Shanna Dell’s piece in today’s eNews for more on the topic.

Bill Bennett’s inspiring closing remarks covered a lifetime of concern for medical education and curricula that will make for better clinicians. He also called for increased articulation between college faculty and school administrators, and spoke generally on the importance of the work members of the SENCER community are doing on campus.

Three new additions to the Institute program were meant to deepen the experience for all participants. Work sessions replaced and improved upon last year’s colloquia, with dedicated group work time and team-focused activities particularly for newcomers. Work sessions for alumni touched on areas of advanced applications and new initiatives. A Pre-Institute Intensive Team Planning Day was an option for teams who were interested in spending additional time together, with a SENCER consultant, to refine and expand project plans. A special track on pre-service teacher education was led by Richard Duschl, and supplemented by participant presentations of their own work with teacher education. Concurrent sessions and poster presentations highlighted campus projects and pedagogy. Campus reports included topics such as food, pre-medical education, learning communities, sustainability on campus, and many more.

2009 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2009

Hosted by Harold Washington College
Chicago, IL

SENCER Summer Institute 2009 participants-all 276 strong-learned, collaborated, discussed, and planned with enthusiasm earlier this month in Chicago. They took advantage of the very full days to accomplish goals for the coming academic year and used their free time to explore the wonderful city setting for the five-day meeting.

Harold Washington College (HWC), host institution for the SENCER Center for Innovation-Midwest, also served as the host for this year’s Institute. HWC, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, has applied the SENCER approach to numerous courses, addressing topics that have direct relevance for students, such as urban asthma, childhood obesity, and genetically modified foods. Moving the Institutes around the country has opened opportunities for intensive local participation, especially by teams from the host institutions. SSI 2009 embraced many members of the HWC faculty. Other local institutions represented among the participants included Kennedy-King College, Harry S. Truman College, Malcolm X College, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, Harper College, Triton College, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Morton College. Each concurrent session and the poster session featured a sampling of presentations by local faculty and administrators on their campus-based SENCER projects.

The Institute days were a mix of programming, including concurrent sessions that featured presentations by alumni, colloquia that had been specifically designed to address needs of new SENCER attendees or alumni participants, plenary sessions to engage on topics of common interest, and networking opportunities. In addition to the examples of campus work presented during concurrent session periods, a poster session on Saturday, August 8th featured forty-five examples of campus adaptations of the SENCER approach. The more informal networking time included the opportunity to connect with regional SENCER Centers for Innovation. The Institute also featured a set of half-day workshops that offered participants the chance to focus intensely on particular areas of interest, including assessment, public health, interdisciplinarity, sustainability, and establishing partnerships with community-based organizations. Nearly half of this year’s participants elected to participate in these extra sessions.

Plenary topics included a discussion on interdisciplinary collaborations by Byron McCane of Wofford College, a session led by Barbara Tewksbury of Hamilton College on choosing learning goals and selecting strategies to achieve the objectives, a reflection by John Bransford of the University of Washington on the work How People Learn ten years after its initial publication, and a joint talk on sustainability by Jay Labov of the National Research Council and Cathy Middlecamp of the University of Wisconsin Madison. We were also fortunate to have Jan Shakowsky, a distinguished leader and member of the United States House of Representatives from the 9th district of Illinois, as a luncheon speaker on science, education, and public policy.

SSI 2009 featured several new additions to the SENCER resource collection. Two courses, Cellular and Molecular Biology: Cancer by Kelly Wentz-Hunter of Roosevelt University (IL) and Undergraduate Biochemistry Through Public Health Issues by Matthew Fisher of Saint Vincent College (PA), were selected as additions to the SENCER model series. New featured backgrounders include “Service-Learning: Reconciling Research and Teaching and Tackling Capacious Issues” by Robert Franco of Kapi’olani Community College (HI), “Diffusion of SENCER – Leading Change on Campus” by DonnaJean Fredeen of Southern Connecticut State University, and “Well, I Thought I Might Learn Something: Going Beyond the Limits of Science” by Byron McCane, professor of religion at Wofford College (SC).

SENCER honored leaders in the community during a dinner held at Harold Washington College and catered by the Washburne Culinary Institute of the City Colleges of Chicago. Both Deidre Lewis, acting chancellor of the City Colleges and John Wozniak, president of Harold Washington College, extended welcomes as the hosts for the Institute. The keynote speaker for the evening was Bill Bennett, who recounted the path he took to first following an interest in science through a life-long involvement in engaging students in the STEM disciplines. Bill is a senior scholar for SENCER and NCSCE, and the first recipient of an award named for him by NCSCE, the William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science. Newly elected SENCER Leadership Fellows in attendance at the Institute were recognized by David Ferguson, the chair of the National Fellowship Board. These Fellows included David Rutschman of Northeastern Illinois University, Helen Doss of Malcolm X College, and Donyel Williams and Christopher Sabino, both of Harold Washington College. Debra Meyer of the University of Pretoria in South Africa spoke to Fellows about the importance of internationalizing their work and the benefits of participating in international collaborations. Fellows in attendance also participated in a business meeting during the Institute to discuss SENCER initiatives over the next year and to offer their thoughts on projects and programs.

2008 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2008Hosted by Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

The annual SENCER Summer Institute is an opportunity for a community of educators, administrators, students, and community leaders to gather to consider how best to engage students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics and the civic issues in which they play an integral role.

The 2008 SENCER Summer Institute was hosted by Santa Clara University, which also hosted Summer Institutes from 2001-2006. Santa Clara University is the host Institution for the SENCER Center for Innovation-West.

The Institute featured presentations by educators, administrators, and students from across the United States, representing a diverse set of disciplinary backgrounds and selected civic issues.

2007 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2007Hosted by the University of Southern Maine
Portland, ME

The 2007 SENCER Summer Institute passed quickly, as always, with full days, much discussion, and hard work done by all who spent the early part of August in Portland, Maine. Warm afternoons saw groups of participants and facilitators scattered around the university quad and seeking shade under the sloping white tent, using the outdoor areas as impromptu classrooms. Others clustered around tables on the mezzanine of the conference center, taking advantage of the cooler area as a place to work on team plans.

For the first time, the Institute was held on the campus of the University of Southern Maine. Our host institution has sent teams to the Institute and regional meetings many times, and has taken the SENCER approach as a guide for course development during the reform of their general education system. Honors courses have been created with the SENCER ideals in mind. A course sequence on “The Body” has been launched with success. Many other courses, concerned with oceans and the environment, are also operating on campus.

The decision to change the location of the Institute this year was made to accommodate attendees from smaller, local institutions who might not otherwise be able to attend the national meeting. A number of new teams and individual representatives from the New England and Midatlantic regions participated this year. In total, around 300 people participated in SSI 2007, representing 94 domestic and foreign institutions concerned with the improvement of STEM education. Nearly fifty percent of the attendees had participated in a prior Summer Institute. SSI 2007 was different in many ways from past Institutes, but for all of the changes, the core motivation and attitude remained constant. The group of educators, administrators, students, and other officials who attended the Institute were thoughtful, energetic, and determined in their efforts to work toward greater student understanding and achievement. Cora Marrett, head of the directorate of education and human resources for the National Science Foundation opened her plenary talk with a title that reflected the goals of all who attended, “the engagement of learners.”

The maturity of the work of the SENCER community is evident with just a glance through the Notes on the Program. More alumni presentations were submitted and accepted than ever before, and the topics covered address a broader range of pedagogies and STEM issues. Several of the courses reported on during the concurrent sessions were supported by Post-Institute Implementation Awards, which were granted for the first time last fall. Three new model courses, highlighted in both the July e-newsletter and in sessions at the Institute, also indicate the quality of work in the community. Two, the “emerging models” – Science on the Connecticut Coast (Southern Connecticut State University) and Slow Food (Beloit College) – grew specifically out of SENCER work. The third, The Power of Water, is a featured model course, and the result of work by alumni at Longwood University.

The Institute program included activities specifically designed for people who are at an advanced level of their work with SENCER, such as a plenary session on planning for further assessment of SENCER, offered by Rich Keeling. Discussion groups on topics like introductory STEM courses, pre-medical education, two-year schools, formative assessment, strategies for deans and department chairs, and social science allowed both alumni and novices to work on areas of concern for the future phases of SENCER work.

Many Institute attendees also chose to report on their campus work by displaying a poster during one of the scheduled presentation times. Two separate sessions were set aside to allow more display space and time to discuss posters with colleagues, as well as to accommodate the increased interest in participating in this year’s session. Forty posters featured new and developed projects, and included a number that focused on work done by faculty at the University of Southern Maine and students in SENCERized courses. Students displayed posters on projects relating to HIV/AIDS, epidemics, and sustainability. Copies of many of the actual posters are available on our website.

We were fortunate to have plenary speakers who considered topics relevant to both alumni and newcomers. As mentioned earlier in this article, Cora Marrett of the National Science Foundation discussed improving learning for all students. Barbara Tewksbury returned to give her popular talk on designing a SENCER course, while Rich Keeling, Matt Fisher, Alix Fink, and Terry McGuire discussed assessment techniques. Robert Full, who also spoke at SSI 2006, gave a “mesmerizing” and “inspiring” address, according to participants. John Bransford, who was not able to be in Maine in person due to a last-minute emergency, was kind enough to deliver his talk live, virtually – another first for the Institute.

The Institute was both proceeded by and followed by special-topic seminars. Last year, we introduced SENCER’s involvement in the scholarship of teaching and learning with a plenary session directed to alumni who were looking to deepen their work. In the fall of 2006, the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement became an affiliate of the Carnegie Foundation, strengthening that collaboration. This year, invited participants took part in an intensive, day-and-a-half Pre-Institute Workshop on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, led by Spencer Benson and Matt Fisher, a Carnegie scholar and senior fellow for the NCSCE. The workshop was only the beginning of a year of work for the participants, who will continue their research projects during the year and report on them next summer.

Post-Institute Workshops allowed participants to spend an afternoon focusing on an area of interest. Though briefly interrupted by a lightning strike and hotel evacuation, they encouraged thoughtful discussion on a number of topics, including grant writing (Myles Boylan), writing in SENCER courses (Cathy Middlecamp), new avenues of assessment (Rich Keeling), course design (Barbara Tewksbury), and K-12 education. The last topic, K-12 education and SENCER, was considered during a dynamic symposium that brought together specialists in many fields of education to work through the question. Richard Duschl of Rutgers University, the chair of the committee that drafted Taking Science to School, a National Academies publication that explores learning processes of children, effective teaching methods, teacher preparation, and professional development as key factors in student success participated, as did Jean Moon, the director of the Board on Science Education. Jay Labov represented the National Research Council. A number of educator from high schools and colleges also took part: Erin Pittman and Kevin Varano (SciTech High), Susan Mooney, Karen Anderson (Stonehill College), Stephanie McNamara (former education student, Stonehill College), and Adrienne Wootters (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts). Karen Oates, David Burns, and Ellen Mappen represented SENCER and the NCSCE. We hope that the discussions begun at the Summer Institute in this and other sessions will continue this year and grow into solid projects and collaborations.

2006 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2006Hosted by Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

Participants predict that they will reach a large number of students with work initiated at SSI 2006 – over 50,000 undergraduate students during this academic year alone. Approximately 37,000 of those students are expected to be non-STEM majors. The number of undergraduates reached is not, however, the only population who will be touched by work emerging from SSI 2006. An estimated 1,300 graduate students will also be exposed to the SENCER ideals through teaching assistantships, instruction and upper-level courses. Courses developed or revised at the Institute will also be used to teach approximately 5,000 students enrolled in pre-service teacher education curricula, who will then be prepared to encourage civic engagement and interest in the STEM subjects in their students. The results, which respond to specific questions that the National Science Foundation requires, represent the responses of participants working on SENCER projects at 80 institutions. When tabulating results for institutions (as opposed to categories concerning individual faculty members), responses were checked so that only one set of numbers represented each institution.

In addition to team time and interactions with colleagues, which are traditionally areas that inspire new ideas and collaborations, much of the base for innovations emerged from attending plenary sessions and concurrent sessions. One participant commented that his team gained “a sense of purpose” during the time spent together at SSI 2006. Concurrent sessions offered a range of topics, strategies, and presenters – as core faculty, alumni, and a strong group of new participants presented on topics ranging across disciplines and pedagogies. Participants noted as a special benefit of attendance the community that encouraged. A participant new to SENCER left with “an understanding of the opportunities and boundaries for making progress on changing the culture of undergraduate science,” and another gained “a fresh perspective and ideas about instructional problems, insight on active learning, a sense of shared challenges, and increased confidence.” This year’s SENCER community comprised:

  • Participants from 80 institutions
  • Four representatives from historically black colleges and universities, 7 from Hispanic serving institutions, and 26 from minority serving institutions
  • Faculty, administrators, students, and representatives from foundations and learned societies covering all disciplines – the STEM subjects as well as the humanities, social sciences, education, and visual arts
  • Participants from two-year colleges (33), four-year colleges (55), associate’s colleges (6), baccalaureate colleges (20), master’s college/universities (56), research universities (53), high schools (3), and other institutions (11) (n.b. – some participants chose more than one category)
  • Newcomers: 64% of Institute attendees had never been to a SSI before (and 86% of those new attendees cited increased interest in SENCER – 11.5% had the same level of interest)

Participants responded positively in general to the settings and general SENCER features of the Institute, such as the newsletter, the materials provided before, during, and after SSI, the website, and the resources available online connected to the Institute. Strong support of the SENCER project and a commitment to involvement in future activities was also expressed.

  • 81% of participants overall reported increased interest in SENCER after participating in SSI 2006, and 18% noted that they were as interested in SENCER as they were prior to the Institute
  • 86% of you responded favorably to the idea of a SENCER membership
  • A majority plans to be active in regional organizations over the next year by attending a regional meeting (68%). Many expressed willingness to host meetings, present sessions or posters, and publicize SENCER regional activities to colleagues on campus who have not previously attended a SENCER function (58%).

We also collected valuable information on the future direction of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement and SENCER. This feedback will be helpful to us as we prepare an application for continued funding from the National Science Foundation in early January and plan our activities for the year. The greatest interest was expressed for developing new models, introducing a searchable database, strengthening regional organizations, and offering mid-year SENCER events. These are part of our plans for the coming year. Faculty are encouraged to develop or recommend a model course, apply to attend the Capitol Hill Symposium and Poster Session, organize a regional meeting, and check the SENCER website regularly.

2005 SENCER Summer Institute

Hosted by Santa Clara UniversitySSI 2005
Santa Clara, California

Participants in the SENCER Summer Institute 2005 (SSI 2005) estimated that their SENCER-related work would affect over 53,000 students within the next two years. This number includes undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at a variety of higher education institutions across the nation and around the world. Here’s how it breaks down: Overall, respondents indicated that 39,996 undergraduate students and 895 graduate students in an estimated 455 courses/labs could be affected this year alone by work done or ideas shared at this Institute – an average of seven courses/labs, 606 undergraduate students and 39 graduate students per institution. When participants considered the future impact on their campuses, the aggregate numbers jump to 53,430 undergraduate students and 2,074 graduate students in 1,572 courses/labs.

We gathered these rather impressive numbers based on answers to our annual SSI evaluation. Each year, we ask the participants in the Institutes to help us gather data regarding our project and to help us evaluate our program. We solicit their appraisals of every feature of the Institute – from the intellectual quality, usefulness of their experience to lodging, facilities, and transportation. We depend on the candid responses to these evaluations to inform the shape and content of following Institutes and to provide us with their valuable perspective. This thoughtful feedback, both positive and negative, is essential to our work.

The evaluations consist of two parts: 1.) required information for the National Science Foundation and 2.) an appraisal of the SENCER Summer Institute program. 282 participants were eligible to complete the evaluations. After compiling information from the 191 returned evaluations – representing a 68% response rate – a clearer view of how the Institute worked for all of its participants is taking shape. Here are some findings from our initial analysis with the greater SENCER community.

The overall registration for SSI 2005 was 327 faculty, administrators, staff, and students representing 106 institutions from 30 U.S. states and five foreign nations. There were 169 women and 155 men in attendance, of whom 7% were African American, 4% were Asian American/Pacific Islander, 2% were Hispanic, 72% were White/not of Hispanic origin, and 1% selected “other” (14% of registrants chose not to respond regarding their ethnicity).

Of those individuals who submitted completed evaluations, 35% represented four-year colleges, 33% represented comprehensive universities, 18% represented doctoral institutions, 9% represented two-year colleges, and 5% selected “other”. This includes four Historically Black Colleges and Universities, one Hispanic-Serving Institution, six Minority-Serving Institutions, and one that is both a Hispanic and Minority-Serving Institution.

It’s no surprise that participants claimed a wide variety of experiences given the diversity of participants’ academic backgrounds. With respondents representing over 20 areas of study, opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations were numerous. Despite their differences, many had similar goals for their time in San Jose. The most common reasons that individuals chose to attend the Institute included improving science education at their home campuses, broadening their abilities by learning new areas, strategies, approaches and techniques, improving interdisciplinary learning, and stimulating/supporting civic engagement in students. Considering the overwhelming number of participants who considered their time spent at the Institute valuable, it seems that many people will be able to translate their goals for SSI 2005 into classroom reality.

Overall 92% of participants responded that their experience at the Institute was positive and valuable. Many indicated that “team time” was especially effective and that the chance to get to know colleagues better was an important element to their work at the Institute. Exposure to new ideas, cross-institutional connections, and the chance to develop skills ranked among the most useful aspects of the Institute.

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2004 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2004

Hosted by Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

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2003 SENCER Summer Institute

SSI 2003Hosted by Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

The snapshots below suggest the range of accomplishments made by campus teams following attendance at the first SENCER Summer Institute. The excerpts are drawn largely from project reports.

The College of St. Catherine developed “Genetics and Inequality,” an interdisciplinary, laboratory-based course for non-majors that helps thestudents learn basic human genetics in the context of complex social issues such as eugenics, DNA fingerprinting and racial profiling, genetic testing, and transgenic organisms.

Colorado College‘s course, “Water, focuses on learning about the local watershed through the integration of four community-based service projects with theory in geochemistry, geography and physical hydrology, while students in the new Energy course study the generation and use of energy in an industrial society, as well as attendant environmental problems through an emphasis on the physical and chemical principles underlying these issues.

“Biology and Human Concerns,” the new SENCER course at Delta State University, focuses on the human condition by exploring human evolution, human population growth over time, contemporary human population issues (such as urban sprawl in the U.S.), and the dangers to continued human existence (particularly threats involving disease pandemics).

Florida Gulf Coast University designed “Ecological Kaleidoscope” – a project to increase science knowledge and teaching skills for pre-service teachers, teachers, and parents. This project includes, a science and science education course that is linked, integrated and taught collaboratively by a science professor and a science education professor.

“The Natural World,” a “rather complex,” integrative learning community is being created by faculty at George Mason University. The project melds the skills and interests of six faculty with the learning styles and accomplishments of a diverse cohort of students and aims to create a coherent and fundamentally important learning experience for all involved.

Hampshire College developed a course exploring the digital divide, taught by a computer science professor, complementing new campus-wide efforts to redesign the experience of all first-year students.

Holyoke Community College now offers several courses that were “substantially influenced by SENCER,” including, “Brink of Extinction: Science Politics, and the Fate of the Earth,” combining Conservation Biology and Introduction to Political Science, and “What is Life?” combining Biology Today and Introduction to Language and Literature.

Keene State University‘s SENCER project seeks to engage university and primary and secondary students in a program to improve scientific understanding and address community needs. Current efforts are focused on pursuing significant extramural support for teachers and college faculty to expand efforts and facilitate communication with community organizations.

Kennesaw State University features several new science courses, including “Interdisciplinary Science: Basic Principles,” and “Interdisciplinary Science: Issues in Science.” SENCER ideals were utilized in the development of the lab, assessment, and course topics.

Students at Loras College can now choose from nine new SENCER courses to complete the Humanity in the Physical Universe (HPU) requirement in the new general education curriculum. Each course is for non-majors, deals with a specific topic that is related to public interest, and has a major, open-ended research component.

SENCER team members from Lourdes College wrote the new course outline and syllabus for “Lake Erie: A Microcosm of Environmental Issues.” The Curriculum and Academic Policies (CAP) Committee unanimously approved the proposal. The new course can be sued to fulfill the General Education Scientific Literacy requirement for non-science majors.

Lynchburg College has incorporated SENCER ideals into two course labs: one designed to teach scientific reading and the other to teach scientific writing. The faculty members who attended the Summer Institute have also changed assessment practices, influenced by new understandings of science teaching and learning.

The focus of the Montclair State UniversitySENCER team has been to bring SENCER ideals into “Contemporary Issues I: Scientific Issues,” an interdisciplinary, non-laboratory general education course. The course draws upon basic principles integrating biological, social and physical sciences, applying the scientific method, scientific data analysis, reasoning and logic to conduct an examination of a contemporary scientific issue.

Emphasizing issues related to the Hudson River, the Mount Saint Mary’s CollegeSENCER project formed connections among three existing courses across the disciplines, Applied Math, Science, and Technology, College Writing, and Introduction to Sociology.

The Evergreen State College reports developing several interdisciplinary programs based on the SENCER ideals, including “Introduction to Environmental Modeling,” “Health and Human Development,” and “Science of the Mind.”

At the University of Missouri-Columbia, the course, “Analysis of Environmental Issues,” asks students to use key natural science concepts to analyze the cause of a problem, develop alternative solutions, select solutions with the most leverage (least cost for most impact), and, where possible, implement solutions. The SENCER team also supports “Conversations About Life Science Teaching,” a biweekly series that encourages and supports discussion about teaching the life sciences.

The University College of the University of Maryland has incorporated the SENCER approach extensively into two courses designed for non-science majors: “The Biology of Cancer” and “The Biology of Aging.” In both courses, the basic principles of biology are taught within the context of topics with which most students have had some personal experience. The courses incorporate various social issues in addition to scientific principles.

At the University of South Florida an interdisciplinary SENCER course sequence, “Science That Matters.” is now offered as part of a coordinated set of courses in a learning community.

Western Nevada Community College implemented a free speaker series titled “Environmental Issues in Nevada” that featured lunchtime lectures by local experts on issues currently facing Nevada.

Numerous activities and courses in the science program at the College of Saint Rose are now connecting the application of scientific knowledge and skills to involvement in community issues. Notable changes include: the introduction of service learning in an introductory science course, increased community involvement by students through several science related events, the development of a new multidisciplinary and integrative capstone science course for elementary and special education science concentrators that draws on their scientific knowledge to investigate societal issues, and the design of a new three-course science program for elementary and special education students who are not concentrating in science. (See September SENCER E-Newsletter for details).

The College of Wooster has developed “Science, Gender and Environment,” a course that explores the relationship between science, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and gender. Through the examination of scientific knowledge claims, an understanding of the scientific method is developed and critiqued with a feminist perspective.

Yeshiva College‘s “The Science of Chemistry: Global Issues” track, exposing students to contemporary issues and current controversies while focusing on energy and the environment, was developed using a SENCER approach and is taught by an organic chemist. Yeshiva’s Freshman Book Project creates overt and formal linkages among science, humanities, and the social sciences through the Book Project selection, The Plague, by Albert Camus.

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2002 SENCER Summer Institute
SSI 2002Hosted by Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

The reports are just now coming in from teams that have worked on SENCER projects during this past academic year. Details will follow the very brief synopses below:

Drake University‘s two-semester sequence integrates the science and mathematics disciplines throughout the two courses that focus on current issues: nutrition and global climate change.

Madonna University‘s new course, “Human Sexuality in a World of Diversity,” is designed around SENCER idealsand is being offered for the Fall 2003 term.

Mercer University assembled a new Scientific Inquiry case study: “Nutrition and Health,” a three to five week casestudy for use in a scientific inquiry course.

The primary goal of Northern Arizona University‘s Introductory ENV course is to imbue students with a fundamental knowledge of the scientific method applied to problems in environmental science, including biodiversity, water, and energy.

University Studies, the general education program at Portland State University, is offering a new Freshman Inquirytheme, “Pathways to Sustainability and Justice.”

Simmons College redesigned an existing course, “Great Discoveries in Science,” to cover similar material but through a new lens: “Feeding the World’s Population.”

Southern Oregon University created a SENCER pilot course, “Forensic Investigation,” a hugely popular, general education class.

2001 SENCER Summer Institute

Hosted by Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

SSI 2001 1 SSI 2001 2
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