published September 5, 2013

Noyce Foundation SENCER-ISE Partnerships Selected: Cornell, Fordham, Hamilton, UConn, Sciencenter, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Green Society Policy Institute, and the Connecticut Science Center for Join National Science Foundation-Supported Partners

The Noyce Foundation has enabled NCSCE to make awards to support the work of four new civic engagement partnerships in our SENCER-ISE initiative.

The four new partnerships, whose planned activities are described below, are:
- Cornell University and the Sciencenter (New York State)
- Fordham University and the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York City)
- Hamilton College (New York Sate) and the Green Science Policy Institute (California)
- University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Science Center (Connecticut)

The new awards expand the number of partnerships to ten and the range of civic issues to include the public understanding of genomics, the use of toxic chemicals in everyday products, the development of tools for parents and other adults that share research on early cognitive development, and the involvement of high school students in urban ecology research.

Alan Friedman, SENCER-ISE Project Director, explains why NCSCE sought additional funding to support a second cohort of partnerships: "When [NCSCE] announced the availability of six partnership awards for the NSF-funded SENCER-ISE project, we were hoping to get 10-12 proposals...We were delighted when a few months later we had thirty complete proposals...Many of those thirty were fundable, but our NSF [funding could only support] six of the proposals. Thankfully, The Noyce Foundation of Palo Alto, California, stepped up and said it would support four additional partnerships, which are now underway."

The Noyce Foundation website notes that one of its goals is to support "the informal science community to develop work that addresses the gaps that exist" in a number of areas, including leadership development and pathways or pipeline design.

Ann Bowers, co-founding trustee and chair of the Noyce Board of Trustees, joined the first cohort of SENCER-ISE partners for lunch at Santa Clara University during the 2013 SENCER Summer Institute (SSI). While addressing the group, Ms. Bowers pointed out that, "about ten years ago, we decided that our ability to impact science education through the formal sector in the U.S. was virtually nil.... So we decided to do a guerrilla move, and go to [the] informal science [arena]." She went on to say, "there really wasn't a lot going on at that point... But the whole idea was, and remains, getting kids, particularly at the middle school level, to retain their interest in science." As Ms. Bowers explained, The Noyce Foundation's goal to maintain students' interest in science is what makes the Foundation a "sort of pipeline" for the partnerships working with older students. Ms. Bowers said that when she learned about SENCER, she thought to herself, 'this is really pretty interesting and there's a lot of opportunity here for partnerships.'

When NCSCE first contacted the potential awardees, the news was met with much enthusiasm and excitement. Upon learning that Hamilton College's partnership with the Green Science Policy Institute was a finalist for the SENCER-ISE sub-award, Dr. Tim Elgren, of Hamilton, wrote about how his chemistry course would benefit from the partnership, saying that, "the past course had focused primarily on the analytical aspects of measuring human exposure to various toxins. We framed projects as civic issues, but did not take civic action. Partnering with the Green Science Policy Institute will allow us to extend these projects to include civic engagement."

As with the first group of partnerships, these new awardees will receive grants of $50,000 each, payable over a three-year period, to implement and develop their projects. The partnerships will also have use of the SENCER-ISE website, developed under the leadership of the Marian Koshland Science Museum, and will receive training and guidance on evaluation practices from Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. The project leaders will attend an orientation where they will have the opportunity to refine their action plans and their evaluation plans. They will also participate in the SENCER Summer Institute in 2014 and the SENCER-ISE National Conference in 2015.

For more information about SENCER-ISE visit the website and NCSCE's SENCER-ISE initiative page.

SENCER-ISE Partnership Project Descriptions
Cornell University & Sciencenter (NY)
New research in cognitive development shows that children learn much like scientists: they use observation and experimentation in their activities and play. But, there is a gap between what researchers know about early childhood development and how adults interact with children in their care. What tools do parents and other caregivers need in order to learn the science of cognitive development so that young children have the best learning environments possible? This is the question that the Sciencenter and Cornell University's Early Childhood Cognition (ECC) Lab seek to answer. The Sciencenter is a hands-on museum with a mission to inspire excitement for science through interactive exhibits and programs that engage, educate, and empower. Researchers at the ECC Lab at Cornell University study the processes by which children learn about cause and effect through everyday experiences. The Sciencenter and the ECC Lab will partner to share this research with parents and to create tools that will help parents navigate the museum's exhibits using research-based techniques to engage their children. As a result of this project, parents will come to understand early childhood cognitive development and methods for maximizing their children's learning at the museum and at home.

Wildlife Conservation Society & Fordham University (NYC)
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fordham University are creating an urban ecology field research program called "Project TRUE" (Teens Researching Urban Ecology). This collaboration will engage teens with one of the most pressing issues of science and civic consequence of our time – urban ecology, a sub-field of ecology that examines the interaction between humans and ecosystems in urbanized environments. High school students will conduct research, guided by a WCS instructor, graduate student, and a professor from Fordham. The participants will disseminate their discoveries through a blog and a series of symposiums. The results of their research will provide scientific evidence that policy makers could potentially use in making decisions about local land use and other issues. Participating students will be better informed to make responsible environmental choices while learning important science skills. Designed to be youth-driven, this project respects and values the contributions of all participants involved. Fordham brings scientific knowledge and rigor, specializing in urban ecology; WCS brings expertise in informal learning and conservation issues; youth bring their thirst for knowledge, curiosity, and energy. All participants create a partnership vital to the success of the program.

Hamilton College & the Green Science Policy Institute (NY & CA)
The partnership between the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP) and Hamilton College will allow undergraduate students at Hamilton who are enrolled in a first semester chemistry course to explore broader impacts of the analytical toxicology work that they perform in the laboratory. The objective of this partnership is to develop research opportunities for undergraduate science students that couple analytical toxicology with public policy and civic engagement. Through projects that are focused on assessing human exposure to a number of anthropogenic toxins. Students will work with the director of GSP and her staff, who regularly provide unbiased scientific data to government, industry and non-governmental organizations to facilitate informed decision-making about the chemicals used in consumer products. Students will communicate their results to decision makers in government, industry, the press, and the public, who can make changes to protect the health and the environment.

The University of Connecticut & Connecticut Science Center (CT)
Advances in the field of genomics are rapidly re-shaping personalized medicine and healthcare. These advances are far out-pacing the awareness and knowledge among the public. The Connecticut Science Center and the University of Connecticut's Center for Applied Genomics and Technology are partnering on a "Genome Ambassadors" program. The program will work with family audiences visiting the Science Center over a three year period to: (1) assess gaps in public knowledge and awareness of genomics and (2) design and deliver a series of genomics-related program activities to address identified knowledge gaps. The program will serve as a model for leveraging the assets of university research institutions and informal science education organizations to address STEM-related issues of public importance. The Connecticut Science Center is a private, non-profit organization that opened to the public in 2009 and annually serves 300,000 people through program and exhibit experiences. The Science Center is in conceptual development for a new genomics exhibition.