2016 NCSCE Washington Symposium: The Ecosystem of Science Communication: Communicating the Science Solution
This meeting convened experts in science communication to help educators in high schools, colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, public media, libraries, museums, and other informal education institutions better understand the conflicts between scientific knowledge and personal or political identity, and how to successfully navigate these issues.
In addition to specialists in the NCSCE community who delivered on this topic, we had sessions from partners including Yale University’s Center for Cultural Cognition, the Alan Alda Center for Science Communication, Tangled Bank Studios, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to share their expertise with meeting participants. Veteran and new members of the NCSCE community also displayed posters highlighting their institutions’ work in science and civic engagement.
Archived Washington Symposia and Capitol Hill Poster Session Information
The Washington Symposium and SENCER-ISE national meeting was an opportunity for members of the SENCER community, and others interested in the intersection of science and public policy to share the results of their projects and demonstrate their impacts on campuses as well as communities. This year’s program had a particular focus on the work of SENCER-Informal Science Education and its partnerships.
The Symposium began on Sunday, September 27 at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University. The opening plenary address on SENCER Synergies with Informal Learning was delivered by David Ucko, a SENCER collaborator and SENCER-ISE senior advisor, followed by invited presentations on integrating the humanities in STEM education, and the work being done at George Mason University on conservation-focused partnerships.
On Monday, September 28, also at George Mason University, our program featured a keynote address from Julia Washburn, the National Park Service’s Associate Director for Interpretation, Education and Volunteers. Marsha Semmel, a SENCER collaborator and SENCER-ISE senior advisor, gave an afternoon keynote about creating a common theme for cultural institutions. Our Monday program will also feature invited presentations and panels showcasing best practices in educational partnerships.
On Tuesday, September 29, in the Capitol Visitor Center on Capitol Hill, we gathered for the Capitol Hill Poster Session, a special program honoring the SENCER Hawaii team for their multi-institutional collaboration and closing remarks.
The NCSCE Washington Symposium was held on September 28-30, 2014. The theme for this year’s symposium was Science Education, Civic Engagement, and the Role of Evidence in Public Policy.
The Washington Symposium and Poster Session is an opportunity for members of the SENCER community, and others interested in the intersection of science and public policy to share the results of their on-campus projects and demonstrate their impact on campus, as well as their implications for the wider community.
The meeting began September 28 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Our program will features presentations and a panel discussion with Professor Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology and director of the Cultural Cognition Project at of Yale University, who helped us think about the challenges of science communication and its relationship to public policy, and Professor Andrew Gelman, professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, who helped us consider “the evidence on evidence.”
On Monday, September 29, the Symposium moved to the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition to a presentation from Jessica Wyndham of AAAS, our Monday program featured invited short papers and panel presentations, project updates from current NSF and other supported initiatives in formal and informal education, and presentations by SENCER Leadership Fellows, NCSCE Scholars and others.
On Tuesday, September 30, we moved to the Cannon Caucus Room of the US House of Representatives on Capitol Hill where we gathered for the Capitol Hill Poster Session, the William E. Bennett Award presentation and closing remarks.
The Symposium program especially focused on the theme of a ‘tipping point’ regarding the transformation of education, and highlighted plans for the next four years of SENCER and new initiatives.
The program also included sessions that present evidence of what is working in communities to connect science and civic engagement and an exploration of connecting new assessment programs with the theme of last year’s symposium – the emergence of the new standards.
Additional sessions focused on:
- Science and human rights,
- Making connections between the higher education and informal science education communities, and
- Communicating effectively about STEM topics and issues with the public, whether through conversations, the use of social media, radio, etc.
The theme of the 2011 Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session was “Students as Agents of Change.” The program for the Symposium included presentations by students on their involvement in course, program, and community initiatives, meetings with members of Congress, poster presentations on Capitol Hill, and small group discussions.
Plenary speakers for the 2011 Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session included Michael Lach and Flora Lichtman. Michael Lach, special assistant at the U.S. Department o Education, will deliver the closing plenary for NCSCE’s Washington Symposium on Capitol Hill during the SENCER Poster Session. Flora Lichtman, multimedia editor for Talk of the Nation: Science Friday on National Public Radio, will speak on the second day of the Symposium.
The 2011 Bennett Awards were presented during the Capitol Hill Poster Session. This year, awards were given to both an individual and a team.? The individual honored was Dr. Catherine Hurt Middlecamp, the director of the Chemistry Learning Center and the chair of the Integrated Liberal Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Cathy has been with SENCER since its inception in 2000, serving as a senior associate, a member of the National Fellowship Board, and a member of the board of advisers for GLISTEN. With Omie Baldwin, she developed the 2004 SENCER Model course, Chemistry and Ethnicity: Uranium and American Indians. In 2007, Cathy was appointed as the editor-in-chief of Chemistry in Context, a project of the American Chemical Society that teaches chemistry in the context of real-world issues. As a member of the author team, she has been the lead author for the chapters on air quality, acid rain, ozone depletion, nuclear energy, and sustainability. In addition, Cathy has received numerous teaching awards, including the University of Wisconsin System-wide Underkofler Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2004. She is a fellow of the Association for Women in AAAS, and in the inaugural class of fellows at the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Jim Speer and the SENCER Student Leadership Team of Indiana State University have done tremendous work on Indiana State?s campus. The Team includes Lauren Adams, M. Ross Alexander, Dustin Blaszcyk, Chase DuPont, Elise Hobbs, Adriahnna Lehman, Emily Pugh, Dorothy Rosene, Peter Rosene, and Julie Whitaker. Jim has encouraged student involvement in all aspects of applying the SENCER approach at Indiana State. Students were recruited and joined to share their expertise with the team, from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to public relations, political science, and law. The students have accomplished much in just one year, and continue to provide a substantive contribution to Indiana State. SENCER efforts across campus, including the Leadership Team, have benefitted from support provided by the University?s strategic plan.
NCSCE’s recent Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session hosted more than 100 educators, students, and administrators with diverse experiences and expertise, but similar enthusiasm for the work they are conducting on campus. The Symposium, which was co-sponsored by the University of Maryland, featured talks by David Asai of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Flora Lichtman of National Public Radio’s Science Friday, and campus teams.
More than 100 invited participants and guests gathered in Maryland and Washington, DC for NCSCE’s fourth Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session. The Symposium, co-hosted by the University of Maryland with support from the dean of undergraduate studies, the vice president for research, and the college of chemical and life sciences, featured a varied program that included presentations of campus-based SENCER projects, discussion groups, a panel discussion with representatives from the National Geographic Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a keynote address by University of Montana professor Garon Smith. Sessions and discussions focused on the role the citizen scientist plays in our society and how best to encourage students, and the public, to engage.
The Capitol Hill portion of the symposium program was designed to give participants the opportunity to discuss results of their campus-based work with members of their congressional delegations, prior to presenting their posters to colleagues and guests. The poster session and reception, held on Tuesday, March 31st, followed these individual meetings. A member of Congressman Tim Holden’s staff, Courtney Williams, welcomed attendees and commented on the importance of projects that engage undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics topics to prepare them to consider public policy implications. Congressman Holden is the representative for the home district of NCSCE and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania.
Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey considered the citizen scientist in his address to symposium participants and guests, as well as the importance of bringing together scientists and people who do not identify as interested in science. Rep. Holt is a physicist who was the assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory until his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, and thus brought his understanding of both science and its connection to government and policy to the discussion. He noted the history of America as a “self-critical, self-correcting society” founded by natural philosophers, essentially the scientists of the time. Their mode of empirical thinking strongly influenced the idea of balance of powers, among other features of American government. He noted the strength of the SENCER projects as their ability to remind students of the connection between the seemingly abstract science and math concepts they learn and the quality of their daily lives, and their tendency to remind scientists that it is for the non-science students and public that they practice science – to contribute to a better society.
Participant presentations during concurrent sessions on Monday, March 30th touched on several of the main areas of focus and interest to Symposium participants and carried through the theme of citizen science. Gary Booth, Janet Lee, Analiesa Leonhardt, Jessica Rosenvall, Laura Jimenez, and Michelle Frandsen from Brigham Young University gave a session on using mentored graduate research in the undergraduate classroom to engage students. By using graduate work in introductory courses, students better understand the applications of what they are learning to their lives and their communities.
Cindy Kaus, SENCER Visiting Mathematician, chaired a session on “Understanding Our World Through Quantitative Literacy,” which featured the work of Karen Saxe (Macalester College) on democracy and Dorothy Sulock (University of North Carolina at Asheville) on reality math. Panelists also discussed how to sustain courses with civic engagement components in math courses.
Faculty from the host institution discussed their Marquee course program, a series of large enrollment courses that focus on contemporary world problems and are aimed at non-science majors. Robert Briber, Jordan Goodman, David Hawthorne, Robert Hudson, Alan Kaufman, Wesley Lawson, Ann Smith, and Donna Hamilton of the University of Maryland presented the session.
Finally, Helen Qammar, Annabelle Foos, and Brittany Skelly of the University of Akron shared information on a chemical engineering course that uses the ongoing potable water crisis in Haiti as the point of focus for a semester-long design project.
A panel of representatives from the National Geographic Society and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration moderated by Richard Duschl brought their perspectives on citizen science, as well as the strategies both organizations use to engage the public. Sarah Schoedinger and Stacey Rudolph, representing NOAA’s education office, and Kathleen Schwille and Tim Watkins from NGS talked about the programs and grant projects they sponsor, as well as the resources available to educators and members of the public.
Both NOAA and NGS coordinate programs that especially aim to connect the public to their local environments and inspire sustainability. BioBlitz, for example, is a program that engages students and a community in cataloging as many plant and animal species in a given area in 24 hours. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Parks Service, the National Geographic Society is sponsoring a BioBlitz every year for ten years (beginning in 2007). This year, BioBlitz will be held in May at the Indiana Dunes. Programs for toddlers to adults are planned throughout the 24 hour period to supplement cataloging excursions.
NOAA supports science literacy through grant programs, such as the Environmental Literacy program and the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program. Funds support projects that connect K-12, college and university students with their local environments, especially watersheds and the ocean. NOAA also has a vast amount of data on local environments that is updated continuously and can be integrated easily into classroom discussions and student projects, and locally affiliated organizations serve as an entry point for groups and educators interested in forming a partnership with NOAA.
Participants in the 2008 Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session shared enthusiasm for improving STEM education and a depth of experience with colleagues and legislators. This year’s Symposium reconnected colleagues working on large campus projects and opened opportunities to build relationships with teams new to SENCER.
Just under one hundred students, administrators, and faculty gathered in DC for the Symposium and Poster Session. As organizers, we were especially pleased to welcome such a large group of students to this event and to have had the opportunity to listen to their thoughts on science education. Several panels were organized to feature campus-based work and to encourage discussion on on-going challenges in science education on campus and the place of science in the larger society.
Keynote speaker Philip Glotzbach, philosopher and president of Skidmore College, framed the work of all members of the SENCER community in discussing the importance and evolution of scientific discourse in society and a related topic, the necessity of improving current STEM teaching and learning to create a scientifically literate public. He explored why people should learn science – where the public good lies in the results of this work – and how educators can create a culture that encourages students to engage in the critical examination of scientific issues. Instilling the ability in students to be able to “function as informed, responsible citizens” is an obligation of higher education, and if it is not a priority, it should be. Of SENCER, Dr. Glotzbach noted that, “[its] strength lies in its focus on situated learning in science, connecting science with policy…and, one might say, the larger dimensions of human existence.”
The immediate challenges of STEM education were analyzed from a National Science Foundation perspective by Karen Oates and Myles Boylan during the Symposium’s opening plenary. Educating all students to be scientifically literate is crucial not only to have citizens who are able to comprehend implications of science-based topics on a daily basis, but also because citizens – including people working in government – who are not scientists need to be able to make sound decisions about scientific issues. The NSF uses multiple avenues to encourage better science education and that work, including SENCER’s, is key to achieving one of the main objectives that Congress has set for NSF. To assure that the contributions of taxpayers to this effort are well managed and spent, NSF is placing added emphasis on assessment and evaluation. During a workshop on Monday, Russ Pimmel, also of the National Science Foundation, discussed components of assessment that are especially effective. He emphasized the careful construction of goals, outcomes, and questions to be answered (as opposed to simple lists of things that will be done ion the course of a grant’s lifetime). A thorough evaluation plan is a critical component of a strong grant proposal. It also serves as a strategy to ensure that a project actually does what the educator aims to achieve.
Student participants, who composed over one third of the symposium attendees, engaged in a special roundtable discussion moderated by Rich Keeling on their own STEM education experiences (undergraduate and secondary). Many specifically discussed their experiences in taking or teaching SENCER courses.
The group consisted primarily of students who are not currently majoring in STEM disciplines, but did include several pre-service teachers and graduate students who were involved in both research and in instructing first-year undergraduate students. Students who had previously been uninterested in science indicated that doing science and being able to see the connection to everyday life was one of the more helpful parts of their SENCER experience, making science “more authentic, tangible.” The increased interaction with faculty who are engaged in the course content and its application to problems in society was another common point in SENCER courses that students found to be different than other science courses they had in the past. Two of the pre-service teachers present remarked that the SENCER course they had taken had encouraged them to change their concentrations to science. One pre-service teacher commented that she added science as a concentration because “in order to teach [science] well, [she] needed to be able to think like a scientist.” Many students indicated that they had found ways to continue the service connections formed in their courses in other areas of their lives.
Panel discussions gave participants the chance to share with each other what they are doing to create environments that encourage students to explore scientific topics in real-world contexts. Themes of the panels were public health, teacher preparation, conservation biology, learning communities, the environment, food and water analysis, high school partnerships, sustainability on campus, and ethics and emerging technology.
An important feature of the annual Symposium is the opportunity for participants to meet privately with members of Congress to discuss the work they are doing on campus to improve STEM education and, often, how that benefits the campus’ local communities. This year, meetings for each campus team were arranged on Tuesday morning, just prior to the poster presentation session in the Rayburn House Office Building. Attendees took materials, such as their posters, to the meetings to illustrate the course or curricular activities and how these projects are helping to better prepare a scientifically literate public. To prepare for these meetings, the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement invited Michal Freedhoff, policy director for Congressman Edward J. Markey, to share an overview of the inner workings of a congressional office and how things get accomplished on Capitol Hill. As a scientist and a member of a congressional office, Michal broke down the fast-paced daily activities on Capitol Hill and provided advice on how best to convey the information about campus-based projects to congressional delegations in a time-effective way. Many participants have plans to keep in touch with the person they met with, and several will host their members of Congress or their staff members on campus for a visit in the next academic year.
The Poster Session and Reception on Capitol Hill served as the formal launch of the five SENCER Centers for Innovation (SCI), each of which will offer workshops during the year to supplement national SENCER events such as the Washington Symposium and the Summer Institutes. They will provide local networks for educators and institutions looking to connect with others close by who are applying SENCER to courses or large-scale curricular reform.
The centers will be based at Santa Clara University (West, Co-Directors: Steven Bachofer of Saint Mary’s College and Amy Shachter of Santa Clara University), Harold Washington College (Midwest, Co-Directors: Marion Fass of Beloit College and Dennis Lehman of Harold Washington College), the University of North Carolina at Asheville (South, Co-Directors: Edward Katz and Keith Krumpe, both of the University of North Carolina at Asheville), Rutgers University (Midatlantic, Co-Directors: Monica Devanas and Terry McGuire, both of Rutgers University), and the University of Southern Maine (New England, Co-Directors: DonnaJean Fredeen of Southern Connecticut State University and Rob Sanford of the University of Southern Maine). Each region has a strong council led by educators who have expertise in applying innovative pedagogies to course and curricula reform/design. The posters that the co-directors presented at the reception are available on our website, and the information can also be found in the new section of the SENCER site dedicated to the Centers for Innovation.
Students, academic leaders, and educators gathered for the second Capitol Hill Symposium and SENCER Poster Session in mid-March, bringing with them evidence of creative applications of the SENCER ideals to a variety of topics and disciplines. This year’s event focused on the preparation of students to enter the 21st century workforce, and the event agenda was expanded from last year’s model to include distinguished speakers and a roundtable discussion on best practices in SENCER courses. The topics covered were diverse, and included course work in teacher education, mathematics, urban health, and environmental studies, among others. Institutional partnerships, large scale reforms, learning communities, and first-year courses were some of the settings in which alumni have applied the SENCER approach.
The poster session and lunch reception in Rayburn House Office Building was the first official event of the symposium, but most participants had already spent the morning on Capitol Hill in meetings with elected officials and legislative aides.
The majority of participants were able to spend some time in their elected official’s office discussing the specifics of work they’re doing on their campuses, as well as the work that the SENCER community as a whole has been doing to increase science literacy, interest in the STEM subjects, and to better prepare students to be active, well-rounded citizens. Attendees at the Poster Session and Symposium, which was held at the historic Charles Sumner School, included 63 educators, administrators, and students from 23 colleges, universities, and high schools from around the country. Following the Poster Session, participants had the chance to give short presentations on their courses and programs to fellow participants and guests during concurrent sessions at the Sumner School.
Workforce preparation was a natural theme for this year’s event because of SENCER’s success in helping students develop the skills to be successful in any career, an awareness of the intersection of science and public policy, and an increased interest in the sciences. The importance of STEM education in preparing a citizenry agile enough to both lead innovations and to adapt to rapidly changing technologies was a focus of the keynote address given by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily DeRocco, who spoke to symposium participants on Monday evening. She encouraged students to “make a positive contribution to [their] communities and to America” by developing their abilities and applying them to issues affecting their local areas, and commended Harrisburg University of Science and Technology for its “innovative” aims and execution of those goals. In her closing plenary address on Tuesday, Deidra Lewis, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the City Colleges of Chicago, echoed the importance of supporting courses that increase student scientific literacy and encourage an understanding of the relationship between science and issues of concern, both local and national.
Secretary De Rocco’s talk complemented a discussion student attendees took part in earlier that afternoon with Jennifer McNelly, the director of the Department of Labor’s Business Relations Group for Employment and Training. Among other topics, Ms. McNelly connected student work with Department of Labor initiatives in their local communities, such as the WIRED Initiative. WIRED supports targeted regional economic development, and the innovative education and job training activities that sustain that development. The discussion also covered skills that are universally desirable in the job market, to help students prepare to enter the workforce shortly.
The discussion on workforce preparation continued on Tuesday morning with SENCER PI David Burns’ introduction to an activity on best practices in SENCER courses. He spoke to SENCER’s method of uncovering student interests and values to teach other topics as rooted in philosophies of education and cognitive development, and disputed statements by people who deride students for having only material desires. He noted that we must have some respect for students’ material desires, as they have a realistic idea of what they need to do to support themselves once they graduate from college. Taking the achievements of SENCER courses into account, attendees were then asked to consider what could be done to reduce the risk students take in enrolling in SENCER courses and promote student success. Participants divided into small groups and worked for a little over an hour, discussing how to more explicitly connect learning in SENCER courses to career aspirations, how efforts to promote civic capacity as strengthen a number of skills, what pedagogical strategies best encourage skill development, how to encourage students to take a SENCER course early in their academic career, and what content, in general, is essential to skills development. Each group focused on a slightly different aspect of the topic, leading to a rich mix of comments on each point. Notes from each group’s discussion will be compiled into a single document that will be posted on our website and used in future activities.
Evaluations from the Symposium and Poster Session are still being collected. We used comments from informal conversations about last year’s symposium to direct much of the planning for this year’s event. We will use the results of these more formal (yet brief!) evaluations to improve on this event for next year. Next year’s Symposium will focus on “Connecting SENCER Projects to K-12 Learning.”
For two hours the reception room in the Longworth House Office Building was all abuzz with students, faculty, elected officials, and special guests. The event highlighted examples of science and mathematics education and civic engagement work and sparked conversations on issues ranging from urban renewal to tuberculosis.
Representative Tim Holden (D-PA) kicked off the SENCER Capitol Hill Poster Session by thanking the students and faculty participants for their important work on behalf of science and math education. On behalf of Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI), Legislative Aide Elissa Levin welcomed the crowd and spent time discussing the posters with participants. Among others, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA), Myles Boylan (NSF), Adam Boyd (ACS), Patrick Pearce (Legislative Correspondent to Senator Dole NC), Jay Labov (NRC), and Mel Schiavelli (President, HUST) were also in attendance.
The following is a complete list of participants and their poster titles.
Randy May and Cynthia Mayo* (Brenau University), Scientific Analyses and Civic Engagements as Vehicles for Understanding Unsolved Public Issues
Gary Booth, Julie Low* and Jessica Rosenvall* (Brigham Young University), Curriculum Design to Promote Civic Engagement
Kraig Steffen (Fairfield University), Science as a Way of Knowing: Creating an Active Learning Science Core at Fairfield University
Richard Fluck (Franklin & Marshall College) and Samantha Hagelstein and Paul Jensen (alumni), Multidisciplinary Seminars about Tuberculosis
Tom Wood and Kristen Culp* (George Mason University), Gains in Applied Science Literacy at George Mason University
Anne Pierce (Hampton University), Riverscape: Pre-service Teachers as Agents of Civic Engagement
Mike Davis (Harold Washington College), Civic Engagement Through Interdisciplinary Learning: A Course Model for Community Colleges
Christina Dryden, Rob Furey, Christopher Anderer* and Diane Do* (Harrisburg University of Science and Technology), C+C+C = College + Community + Classroom
Cindy Klevickis and Kai Degner* (James Madison University), A Space for Science
Roselyn Hammond and Glenda Prime (Morgan State University), Module of a Multidisciplinary Course, SENCER Project: Social and Social Issues
Jeff Ashley, Anne Bockarie, Greg Granato*, Joell Miller* and Egbert Simon* (Philadelphia University), Fostering Lifelong Scientific Literacy: Non-science Majors Discover the Science Behind National Public Health Issues
Steve Bachofer and Coree Brown* (Saint Mary’s College of California), The Redevelopment of Alameda Point: Studying the Reuse of a Superfund Site ? The RETUrN Learning Community
Matt Fisher (Saint Vincent College), The Chemistry of Daily Life
Erin Pittman, Kevin Varano, and Crissa Jackson* (SciTech High School), What Does SENCER Look Like in a High School?
Gregory Miller and Michael Andrus* (Southern Oregon University), Forensic Investigation: A Broad and Innovative Course Designed to Increase Scientific Literacy in Non-science College Students
Garon Smith and Heidi Underberg* (University of Montana), Infusing Civic Issues into the Chemistry Curriculum at All Levels
Ed Katz and Keith Krumpe (University of North Carolina at Asheville), Integrative Liberal Studies Topical Clusters at UNC Asheville: A SENCER Project in Liberal Arts Curricular Reform
Brian Birgen, Mariah Birgen, and Donovan Hill* (Wartburg College), SENCER Ideals in Mathematics and Physics
* = student participants