Water, River, and Community: Bridging Community, Environment, and Outreach Through a Trans-disciplinary Course
A new article in the NSTA's journal "Connected Science Learning" documents how team of university faculty members at a private, faith-based university collaborated designed a river-focused, real-world, inquiry-based, community-embedded, trans-disciplinary learning experience to address the wicked problem of managing our freshwater resources to ensure water for human consumption, agriculture, and industry while at the same time balancing the impact of water use on the environment. The course syllabus stated, “Students are submerged in the wicked problem of water, and, through exposure to multiple perspectives and means of examining the problem, they emerge with a vision of the role they can play in addressing this and other similar issues at local, national, and global scales.” The university supported this course as an important experiment in finding better ways to engage students in addressing real-world problems and contexts. Bringing multiple disciplines to the table to both engage students and present a topic in its full complexity was an important goal of the effort.
The course, which also included a partnership with Baylor's Mayborn Musuem of Natural History, was the result of work by of faculty from Baylor University who attended the Science Education and New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (SENCER) Summer Institute. One of the authors, Charlie Walter, is Director of the Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor, and was a key participant the SENCER-Informal Science Initiative http://sencer-ise.net/partnerships/