published June 13, 2013

NCSCE Announces Civic Engagement Partnership Support Awardees

NCSCE is pleased to announce the six partnership awardees for its Civic Engagement Partnership Support Awards that are part of the Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities – Informal Science Education (SENCER-ISE) initiative. Funding for SENCER-ISE is provided by the National Science Foundation (DRL 123743).


The National Center received thirty high quality proposals for the six awards. The partnerships will receive funding of $50,000 each over a three-year period and offer a balanced portfolio of partnerships in the types of informal science education and higher education institutions they represent, in their geographic locations, and in the issues of civic consequence that they will address.

The awardees include Antioch College and Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center (Ohio), Brooklyn College of CUNY and the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service (New York City), New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) at the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (New Mexico), Paul Smith's College and The Wild Center (New York State), Raritan Valley Community College and New Jersey Audubon (New Jersey), and Saint Mary's College of California and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum (California).


"SENCER-ISE represents a major national interest in bringing formal and informal science educators together in equitable and durable partnerships around compelling civic questions to work collaboratively towards improving both professional knowledge and practice in higher education and informal science education," notes Wm. David Burns, executive director of the National Center and the Principal Investigator of the SENCER-ISE initiative. He continues, "the issues the partnerships will explore (managing water resources and energy, protecting urban habitats, understanding climate science, and forest health and ecosystems) are important for all citizens to understand and will engage pre-college, undergraduate, and graduate students, as well as the general public in efforts to develop solutions to these issues of national, regional, and local importance.

Alan J. Friedman, consultant for Museum Development and Science Communication, who serves as the project director, adds, "another goal of SENCER-ISE is to instill in graduates and the general informal science education audience the idea that informal science education and activities are a credible, accessible source of high quality 'life-long' learning on matters of science, policy, personal well being, and public welfare."

Dr. Friedman also explained, "in addition to the start-up funds, SENCER-ISE will provide an important organizing function to ease the development of the partnerships and overcome some of the barriers to success that can occur when working together across different educational sectors." He goes on to note that "the training, communication and reporting systems we are setting up will encourage the formal and informal educators to work together, not only within their own partnership but also across the partnerships. In the end, we want to establish the ingredients that make up successful partnerships and use this knowledge to develop best practices for the field."

Part of the communication interface will revolve around a new website. The website will allow for the flow of intra-partnership communication and will also provide resource and other information to educators, policy makers, and the general public. The website was developed under the leadership of the Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences.

Awardees will also receive training in program evaluation, under the direction of Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., museum planning, evaluation, and research specialists, located in Alexandria, Virginia.

NCSCE's mission is to inspire, support, and disseminate campus-based science education reform strategies that strengthen learning and build civic accountability among students in colleges and universities. SENCER, the National Center's signature program, began in 2001 with NSF support, has since grown to include more than 2,700 educators and 500 colleges, universities, government agencies, not for profit organizations, and community based groups, in the United States of America and abroad. The National Center is affiliated with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania.

For more information, please visit www.sencer-ise.net. Please also see below a description for each of the partnerships.

Antioch College & Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center (OH)

Antioch College, Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center and the Marianist Environmental Education Center's formed a partnership called "Biodiversity, Invasive Species and Forest Restoration: Integrating Civic Engagement in the Classroom and Outdoors," to design curriculum around the issue of biodiversity loss following non-native species invasions. The partners will integrate informal science education into an introductory Environmental Science course, offer civic engagement activities to elders and youth in the community, and involve campus and community members in deciduous forest restoration. The partnership activities include intergenerational workshops on plant propagation, a plant foster care program, seed collection and planting by youth, and informal science education opportunities for undergraduate students. Antioch College is a small liberal arts college with an Environmental Science major and a tradition of experiential education. The Outdoor Education Center (OEC) is located in Glen Helen, a 1000-acre deciduous forest preserve that is continuous with the college campus and is an important component of the Yellow Springs community. The OEC offers programs to students in grades four through six, extension programs for schools and public programming through a Trailside Museum. The partners' civic engagement and forest restoration work will be modeled after successful programs offered at the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) in Dayton. MEEC is recognized as a leader in hands-on restoration ecology and has successfully integrated woodland restoration into environmental stewardship workshops for 25 years. The programs will engage a wide audience ranging from senior citizens to grade school children and will promote strong community connections around acts of civic consequence.

Brooklyn College of CUNY & Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service (NYC)

Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway), a unit of the National Park Service, and Brooklyn College are creating a citizen science field observation program called "Sentinels of Shoreline Change." The project will develop collaborative learning communities around monitoring the resilience of Jamaica Bay, an urban estuary. Participants will provide scientists and resource managers with measures of the bay's resilience to human activities and climate change. The project focuses on grades 7-12 pre-service and in-service teachers, and Brooklyn College undergraduate students, while fostering collaboration between faculty, rangers and staff from the partner institutions and the general public. Gateway is responsible for managing the vast array of cultural and natural resources in Jamaica Bay for the public benefit. They have a history of teacher professional development and collaborations with formal education partners that emphasize authentic science research within the park. Brooklyn College is an urban, public liberal arts college with a diverse student population. It has competitive NCATE certified science teacher education programs; a strong collaborative working relationship between the Earth and environmental sciences and science education departments; and a history of successful place-based science education projects.


New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) at the University of New Mexico & New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
The New Mexico Informal Science/Current Research Network will focus on two issues of importance to New Mexicans—water and energy. The project, called "New Mexico Informal Science/Current Research Network," will bring together a network of informal science education institutions (New Mexico ISENet) with a network of university-based researchers (New Mexico EPSCoR) to build capacity for enhanced collaboration to engage learners of all ages in STEM issues related to water and energy. Partners in this effort include Bradbury Science Museum (Los Alamos), Eastern New Mexico University (Portales), Explora! (Albuquerque), Farmington Museum (Farmington), Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science (Las Cruces), National Nuclear Museum of Science and History (Albuquerque) New Mexico EPSCoR (Statewide), New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Albuquerque), New Mexico Space History Museum (Alamogordo), New Mexico State Parks (statewide), Santa Fe Children's Museum (Santa Fe) and Western Heritage Museum (Hobbs). New Mexico EPSCoR is a university-based federal-state partnership that aims to enhance research competitiveness through investments in research instrumentation, education (at all levels), and cyberinfrastructure. New Mexico EPSCoR involves students and faculty at research universities, four-year undergraduate institutions, community colleges and tribal colleges. Focusing on water and energy, this project will bring together informal science education professionals with researchers who understand these issues. By combining their efforts and expertise, the New Mexico Informal Science/Current Research Network will result in unique ways to reach the public and students with the latest scientific research presented through an array of informal science programs.


Raritan Valley Community College & New Jersey Audubon Society (NJ)
The New Jersey Audubon Society and Raritan Valley Community College plan to integrate classroom work with citizen science field research to address forest health as a civic issue through a project called "Integrating Citizen Science and Community College Student Efforts in Assessing Forest Health in Central New Jersey." The project will involve community college students at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) and citizen scientists at NJ Audubon (NJA) in the assessment of forest health in central New Jersey, documenting the extent of deer browse and its effects on forest structure, invasive plant species and avian and plant diversity. NJA is a statewide, independent Audubon Society, whose mission is to foster environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among citizens and to protect endangered and threatened wildlife and plants in New Jersey. The citizen science program at NJA focuses on improving our understanding of bird ecology and promoting the conservation of the habitats on which they depend, and relies on the empirical knowledge and informal training of the volunteers. Students at RVCC's Environmental Studies program learn about invasive plants and deer overpopulation and their effects on native floras and faunas through formal education in their college classes. These institutions will aim to bridge the gap between their informal and formal science educated audiences and anticipate that each group will benefit from the other.


Paul Smith's College & The Wild Center (NY)
The partnership between Paul Smith's College and The Wild Center called "Interpreting Climate Science" is a new class offering that will engage Paul Smith's College students in developing targeted climate science communication to community gatekeepers. "Gatekeepers are professional and peer opinion leaders as well as retail and governmental organizations or bodies that influence citizen choices or manage public tax dollars" (i.e., disaster preparedness, local food systems, building codes, eco-tourism, etc.). However, many potential gatekeepers do not see themselves as actors playing a major role in climate change policy. Yet these specialists define the choice environments in which citizens make important decisions affecting large groups of people. Many community segments have been neglected by climate literacy efforts, yet these same groups and individuals act as gatekeepers for implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies." [1] After a review of climate change effects expected in the Adirondack Park, understanding the principles of interpretation and reviewing social science recommendations on communication strategies, students will work collaboratively to develop presentations intended for specific gatekeeping audiences. In the new course students will receive training in professional interpretation (and be certified at the successful completion of the course) by the National Association of Interpretation (www.interpnet.com)[2]; learn basic climate science and communication research; and create and present to targeted non-traditional audiences. The goal is to use interpretive strategies of linking to learners' needs and relevance, conduct research on public understanding of climate change to initiate conversation with gatekeepers, and raise awareness of possible solutions with the outcome of a more resilient community. The Wild Center (TWC) is a new museum in the Adirondack Region of New York State and since opening in 2006, the museum has committed to taking a leadership role in helping our community understand climate science and support community self-defined action. Paul Smith's College (PSC) offers its students a high level of experiential learning in its well-established degree programs in environmental science, forestry, natural resource management and outdoor recreation.


Saint Mary's College of California & Lindsay Wildlife Museum (CA)

In 2013, Saint Mary's College of California and Lindsay Wildlife Museum will commence "Facing the Future: Sharing Habitats with Wildlife." Working in partnership, they will explore the issue of urban habitats – their ephemerality, how they are affected by human activities, and, ultimately, the need for citizens to learn to share space and promote the success of these habitats. The institutions will (1) study a specific watershed habitat in the San Francisco Bay Area; (2) design data collection methods, including GIS mapping and creation of a mobile application, that yield results likely to inspire and educate children and adults to become aware of urban habitats and the need to protect them; and (3) prepare tools and interpretive materials to raise awareness of wildlife and habitat issues. The primary audience is the general public who visit Lindsay; the museum serves 100,000 each year. The project will also serve up to 40 Saint Mary's science majors. Founded in 1955, the mission of Lindsay Wildlife Museum is to connect people with wildlife to inspire respect and responsibility for the world we share through natural history exhibits, gardens, a live collection of non-releasable native California wildlife, and education and community outreach. Saint Mary's College, founded in 1863, serves 2,800 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students through schools of liberal arts, science, business, and education. The college's curriculum is based in the liberal arts and Catholic traditions and includes a robust civic engagement requirement.