published August 22, 2013

SENCER-ISE Partners Gather for the First Time at the 2013 SENCER Summer Institute

Hailey Chenevert, NCSCE
hailey.chenevert@ncsce.net

The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement welcomed the first cohort of SENCER-ISE Civic Engagement Partnership Support Award partners to the SENCER community during SSI 2013. With much enthusiasm and curiosity, the SENCER-ISE partners gathered together with their fellow awardees to plan for their projects, learn more about the SENCER community, and enjoy the beauty of the Santa Clara University campus and SENCER hospitality. Funding from the National Science Foundation has allowed for the initial development of SENCER-ISE (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities-Informal Science Education) and support for the first cohort of six partnerships.

On July 31st and August 1st, the partners attended a day and a half of pre-institute meetings to kick-off the SENCER-ISE initiative. During this time, they worked with Jonathan Bucki, of the Dendros Group, LLC, Randi Korn and Emily Skidmore, of Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., and Ryan Person, of Paine Communications, Inc. With Jonathan Bucki's facilitation, the partners developed action plans for their projects and strategies for overcoming obstacles their partnerships might face in the future. Following up on a June webinar on evaluation practices, Randi Korn and Emily Skidmore provided guidance to the partners as they fleshed out evaluation outcomes for each of their projects. Ryan Person joined via WebEx to lead a tutorial on how the partners can use the SENCER-ISE website to post updates about their partnerships and projects on the public site, and use the members-only features to interact with their fellow awardees and SENCER-ISE staff. Very quickly we began to see a passionate exchange of ideas and collaboration between partners and across partnerships.

Once general SSI events commenced, the SENCER-ISE partners immersed themselves in the larger SENCER community, attending plenaries and participating in work and concurrent sessions. Although SSI primarily focuses on higher education, the informal science education partners found many of the sessions they attended to be stimulating and helpful, including those on K-12 education, strategic planning for the future of NCSCE and SENCER, and those presented by fellow ISE educators, such as Sue Ellen McCann, Andrea Swensrud, and Robin Mencher (Integrating Multimedia in SENCER Courses- A Discussion) of KQED, public media for Northern California.

Reflecting on his experience at SSI, Charles Walter, Executive Director of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and Co-PI for the New Mexico Informal Science/Current Research Network project, wrote, "As a new attendee to SSI, and as one of a few non-university faculty members, I felt like a respected member of the science learning community. This was SENCER's legendary hospitality coming out. I greatly appreciated the collegial atmosphere."

The SENCER-ISE partners also enjoyed the opportunity to visit The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA during their free time on Sunday afternoon. The partners were personally invited to visit The Tech by Ann Bowers, CEO of the Noyce Foundation and Board Member at The Tech. Ms. Bowers had joined the partners and SENCER-ISE staff on Wednesday, July 31st for lunch. It was especially gratifying to participants and organizers to have Ms. Bowers attend the lunch as The Noyce Foundation recently awarded the National Center funds to support a second cohort of SENCER-ISE partnerships.

Of the decision to support SENCER-ISE, Ms. Bowers noted, "We're trying to maintain that interest [in science], that curiosity, and a lot of our funding now goes to what I think a number of you probably consider the makers movement. It's getting people to get their hands on stuff, to have a challenge...That's why we're here, and I think that the experiments that you're basically doing, to see if you can bring real world experiences to the older kids, feeds into what we do...and we're feeding what you do, because hopefully you'll get kids that are already more engaged."

The National Center is still in the beginning stages of strengthening the ties between SENCER and the informal science education community. It is our hope that, through the SENCER-ISE partnerships and other outreach opportunities (regional meetings and upcoming Summer Institutes, for example), further connections will be made so that higher education faculty can learn more about the activities of and the benefits of working more closely with those in the informal science education world.

Nellie Tsipoura, ISE partner from New Jersey Audubon, commented about SSI 2013, "...What was most enjoyable was the level of energy and intellectual stimulation. It was awesome! I truly felt exhausted at the end of each day, a sign that I was being pushed to think in new ways. I guess I was "SENCERized" myself! Not through improved knowledge, but infused with improved ability to mentally process the educational component of my work... and with renewed excitement and a feeling of creativity...really in a way a sort of 'mental liberation'. I have attended many good conferences in my career, but this was probably the best!"

For more information about the SENCER-ISE Civic Engagement Partnership Support Award partnerships, please visit the SENCER-ISE website, found here, or read the SENCER eNews announcement of the partnerships, found here.

SENCER-ISE Co-PIs and Partner Institutional Representatives in attendance at SSI 2013 included:
Antioch College and Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center

  • Linda Fuselier, Antioch College
  • Jennifer Lang, Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center*

Brooklyn College of CUNY and Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service

  • Jennifer Adams, Brooklyn College of CUNY*
  • Dan Meharg, Gateway National Recreation*
New Mexico EPSCoR and New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
  • Mary Jo Daniel, New Mexico EPSCoR*
  • Charles Walter, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science*
Paul Smith's College and The Wild Center
  • Rob Carr, The Wild Center*
  • Stephanie Ratcliffe, The Wild Center
  • Curt Stager, Paul Smith's College*
Raritan Valley Community College and New Jersey Audubon
  • Jay Kelly, Raritan Valley Community College*
  • Nellie Tsipoura, New Jersey Audubon*
Saint Mary's College of California and Lindsay Wildlife Museum
  • Steve Bachofer, Saint Mary's College of California
  • Michele Setter, Lindsay Wildlife Museum)*
* Indicates new participants in the SENCER Summer Institute