UAF professor awarded polar science education grant

Fairbanks, Alaska -- University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Larry Duffy is one of nine recipients nationwide of National Science Foundation grants to increase both students' and the public's understanding of polar science.

The two-year grant totals nearly $80,000 and will help Duffy and his collaborators develop a new course based on the Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities, or SENCER, model, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Collaborators on the project include Dave Barnes at UAF's College of Engineering and Mines, Maria Reyes at the University of Texas-Pan American and Catherine Middlecamp of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The SENCER model is an interdisciplinary, thematic approach to education. Duffy's project builds science, anthropology, engineering and service lessons around a single topic to teach science as an integrated whole to diverse student populations. He and his collaborators plan to offer the course, "Environmental Radioactivity, Stewardship and People in the North," for the first time at UAF next spring.

"Education research at NSF and other places has shown that this holistic approach is a better way for most people to study science," Duffy said. "It has proved to be a very effective way of learning."

Students enrolled in the course will learn about the science of radioactivity, as well as its effects on the people and cultures of Alaska. They will use what they learn in service projects throughout the semester, which helps meet a UAF goal to increase community engagement and student involvement in service learning activities.

If the new course is well received, it could spur others like it at UAF, Duffy said. 'We would like to see other courses built around natural resources or coal mining."

As part of the grant, Duffy also hopes to collaborate with others on campus, including the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program and UAF's Honors Program. SENCER's interdisciplinary model is one that fits well with the Honors Program's philosophy to encourage students to explore topics from multiple perspectives, said director Roy Bird.

"As long as I have been involved in education, there have been efforts to be more interdisciplinary," he said. "I think that if this kind of course is done well, it is extremely successful."

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CONTACT: Larry Duffy, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, at (907) 474-7525 or via e-mail at fflkd@uaf.edu.


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