published September 5, 2013

KQED at the 2013 SENCER Summer Institute

Robin Mencher, Director of Education and Media Learning, KQED


This summer, staff from KQED, public media for Northern California, had a chance to participate in the SENCER Summer Institute at Santa Clara University. Robin Mencher, the author of this article, was joined by KQED's Executive Producer for Science and Environment, Sue Ellen McCann, and Science Education Project Manager, Andrea Swensrud. The "trio" participated in the conference, offered a workshop on integrating media into SENCER courses, a poster session about available science media from KQED, and hosted a conversation with Institute participants about roles and opportunities for public media and SENCER programs. The following is Robin Mencher's brief reflection on the Institute:


The SENCER Faculty: Risk takers, change agents, community-focused passionate educators who build connections between their students, science, and everyday life – these are the phrases that keep coming to mind when I reflect on my conversations with SENCER faculty I met throughout the Summer Institute. Whether I spoke with a seasoned professor sharing her SENCER model course or a first time attendee at the Institute who was looking to learn how to build a new SENCER course with his team, a shared vision of growing science literacy and civic engagement on and off campus permeated each conversation.

Participants seemed to appreciate the gathering of "kindred spirits," offering and receiving support, ideas, encouragement. I found this environment of collaboration to be true for teams who don't always have the time to work together closely at their home campus amidst the day to day realities of their jobs This spirit was also evident in the individual, courageous faculty who came to the conference on their own, looking for true colleagues and the SENCER methodologies as an avenue to advance their work.


Summer Institute participants were excited by new ideas and inspiring to one another. Their course design is grounded in the real world and they take a dynamic approach to keeping courses relevant and accessible to a wide and diverse population of students. At the same time, I was left with the impression that faculty are often isolated on their campus and can be challenged to find supports among colleagues for their work or how to make the right connections in the community. Ultimately, passion and resilience and commitment to science and civic engagement continue to motivate the members of the SENCER community, often to quite impactful, transformative and inspiring results.

SENCER and Public Media: Through the workshop KQED led about public media resources to support SENCER courses and our conversations with the SENCER community, we learned that there is a big commitment to using media as a text in the classroom. Some, if not many, regularly utilize media to make real-world connections. Faculty expressed needs for media that is trusted, reliable, factual, and specific. They welcomed opportunities to tap into public media resources for their courses and wanted to know more and access more.

Next Steps:Several SENCER faculty members noted that they already integrate multimedia as well as utilize new media tools as a component of their SENCER projects. We at KQED are looking forward to continuing the conversation with SENCER on how we can advance and increase access to science public media and media-based technologies for the SENCER community.