The Washington Symposium and SENCER-ISE National Meeting, From Nice to Necessary: Science in the Service of Democracy, 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 program took place at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus on September 27th and 28th, and on Capitol Hill on September 29th.
The program began with a welcome by NCSCE Executive Director Wm. David Burns, and a presentation by Tom Wood, Co-Director of the Chesapeake Bay SENCER Center for Innovation, and member of the George Mason University faculty. Tom described the University’s connections to conservation efforts in the region. A plenary address was delivered by David Ucko, a Senior Advisor to the SENCER-ISE project, about the similarities and connections between informal learning and SENCER courses, and how the SENCER-ISE partnerships support these connections. Larry Bell and Paul Martin, the Principal Investigators of the Nanoscale Informal Science Network project presented on their work creating a network to “raise public awareness, understanding, and engagement with nanoscale science engineering and technology.” The day’s program ended with a presentation from Eliza Reilly, NCSCE’s Director of Programs, about integrating sciences and humanities to improve college curricula.
The second day’s program began with a welcome by SENCER-ISE project director Ellen Mappen, who also introduced the keynote speaker, Julia Washburn, Associate Director for Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers at the National Park Service. Julia discussed the role of the National Park Service in educating the public on issues of scientific and historical literacy. Julia’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion facilitated by SENCER-ISE partners who shared best practices for building and growing higher education and informal science partnerships. The Monday afternoon keynote was delivered by Marsha Semmel, Senior Advisor to the SENCER-ISE project, about the creation and benefits of cultural commons, and some models for creating them across the country.
The final portion of the September 28th program consisted of field reports from members of the SENCER community about the work being done on their campuses. Alix Fink of Longwood University and Co-Director of the Chesapeake Bay SENCER Center for Innovation discussed the ways in which resource stewardship and public lands figure into the curriculum at Longwood University. Midshipman 1/C Rachel Busiek of the United States Naval academy shared with participants some of the ways that the USNA STEM Center engages undergraduate facilitators, including herself, to promote informal STEM education. Eugene Galperin of East Stroudsburg University discussed his use of Pearson’s MyMathLab software to redesign a math course for greater emphasis of environmental awareness. Nellie Tsipoura of the New Jersey Audubon and Jay Kelly of Raritan Valley Community College presented the results of their joint effort through the SENCER-ISE project to engage students and citizen scientists on the issue of forest health in Central New Jersey. The final presentation on Monday was delivered by Lisa Shin and John Varady of the FloridaLearns STEM scholar program, which works to create leadership and research opportunities for gifted and talented students in rural Florida.
The Capitol Hill Poster Session on September 29th was an opportunity for participants to share the work being done in their communities with members of Congress and their staffs. Nineteen participants and partnerships displayed posters about their projects. Rep. Mark Takano (D-HI) participated in the program to congratulate the SENCER Hawaii team that was honored for their work with multi-institutional collaborations across the state.
Presentations and posters from the meeting have been added to the SENCER website, and will continue to be added as we receive them. You can view them here.