University of Nebraska, Lincoln

The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) is all about people, and the food, water and natural resources that sustain them. IANR innovation in research, teaching and extension education places Nebraska on the leading edge of food production, environmental stewardship, human nutrition, business development and youth engagement. Composed of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR), the Agricultural Research Division (ARD), Nebraska Extension, and the ARD and Extension components of three departments in the College of Education and Human Sciences. IANR is committed to growing the future of Nebraska’s people, businesses and communities. 

Projections are that by 2050, there will be 9 billion people in the world. This challenge demands considerable innovation and advancement in agricultural science and technology adoption to increase efficiency and output of farming and ranching production systems while concurrently enhancing natural resource stewardship and sustainability. IANR recognizes that STEM education is needed to engage citizens in the conservation and management of natural resources in order to meet the demands for food, energy, water and landscapes. CASNR and Nebraska Extension have partnered with the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education and Human Sciences to advance our shared goals of improving STEM education. Through these partnerships, a number of innovative STEM education initiatives have emerged over the last decade that focus on science and math literacy, underrepresented STEM fields, teacher preparation and development, and science and math lifespan. 

In addition to these ongoing efforts, IANR launched an organized effort in the fall of 2013 which is aimed at fostering a scientifically literate society capable of making effective decisions grounded in STEM-informed analyses of complex, real-world challenges associated with food, energy, water, landscape and people issues. This effort is referred to as the IANR Science Literacy Initiative. 

UNL is recruiting future STEM leaders in record numbers. A primary goal of our integrated, campus-wide STEM education initiatives is to improve science literacy among all UNL undergraduate and graduate students. In 2015, enrollment at UNL reached a record level of 25,260. More specifically, CASNR enrollment is experiencing its 11th year of increase. With a growing pipeline of new individuals, IANR is primed to fill the increased employer demand for expertise in STEM disciplines. 

Frameworks of Engagement 

The framework of UNL’s STEM education initiatives including the IANR Science Literacy Initiative is grounded by a set of underlying principles: 

• Feeding 9 billion people 

• Utilizing an inquiry-based systems approach 

• Balancing science process with content 

• Linked with standards for STEM teaching and learning 

• Partnership-driven 

These principles are designed to foster and/or enhance STEM education in four domains: PK-12 education, higher education, public and organizational partners. 

In PK-12 contexts, interventions focused on enhanced curricular and instructional experiences for students in formal, informal and non-formal settings; professional development for in-service teachers; and teacher education experiences for pre-service teachers. Efforts at the post-secondary level focus on course-based learning and other experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as professional development for faculty. Programs for the public are implemented through extension education and outreach activities. Finally, programs designed for partners emphasize stakeholder engagement, capacity-building, research translation and policy guidance. 

While each of these domains is important to the success of UNL’s STEM education initiatives, stakeholder engagement is critical. Government entities such as the Nebraska Department of Education and Nebraska Department of Natural Resources have been engaged with the initiatives from the beginning. 

Outcomes of Program Activity 

The structure of IANR allows for faculty across all disciplines to contribute to the Science Literacy Initiative as well as other STEM education initiatives. With support and involvement across UNL, the outcomes from these initiatives have been vast, including: 

Raising Nebraska is a 25,000 square foot interactive experience focused on where Nebraska agriculture is today—and, more importantly, where it’s headed. It focuses on how Nebraska farmers and ranchers are poised to meet global demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber—while protecting natural resources and being environmentally responsible. 

It also exemplifies how technology and innovation are combining with talent to produce more with less—less water, less land, less impact on the environment. 

Raising Nebraska helps visitors better understand and appreciate where their food comes from—and the care, stewardship and personal commitment Nebraska farmers and ranchers bring to producing food, fuel and fiber for the world. 

Innovative programming for K-12 teachers and their students 

Innovative STEM education initiatives have allowed UNL to support education in the K-12 space in new ways. With funding from the Nebraska Soybean Board and United Soybean Board, UNL has developed a Summer Science Soybean Project. For three weeks each summer, teachers study alongside soybean breeders, entomologists, molecular biologists, plant pathologists, agronomist and other experts. 

Over 125 teachers have participated in the project so far. As a result, grades K-2 at Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) are using soybeans as the model plant system in over 400 classrooms. Kevin Atterberg, a middle school biology teacher at LPS developed an Ag in the City curriculum that aligns food, energy and water systems with LPS middle school biology curriculum. Kansas and Minnesota are now replicating the research experience for teacher (RET) model in their states. 

Raising Nebraska 

Raising Nebraska is a collaborative initiative involving the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the Nebraska State Fair. Raising Nebraska opened during the 2014 Nebraska State Fair and has won a number of prestigious national and international awards for its creativity, interactive technology and content delivery in helping consumers better understand where their food comes from, how it is grown and raised, and who is growing it. 

Raising Nebraska is a 25,000 square foot interactive experience focused on where Nebraska agriculture is today—and, more importantly, where it’s headed. It focuses on how Nebraska farmers and ranchers are poised to meet global demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber—while protecting natural resources and being environmentally responsible. 

It also exemplifies how technology and innovation are combining with talent to produce more with less—less water, less land, less impact on the environment. Raising Nebraska helps visitors better understand and appreciate where their food comes from—and 

the care, stewardship and personal commitment Nebraska farmers and ranchers bring to producing food, fuel and fiber for the world. 

In addition, in 2014, staff from UNL and the National Center for Agricultural Literacy (NCAL) developed curriculum in biotechnology, invasive species, pollinators, and water systems. To develop effective, standards-aligned lesson plans, NCAL designed and facilitated a novel program in the summer of 2015, entitled Translating Applied STEM Research into Secondary Science (TASRs). 

The TASRs program provided an opportunity for 8 high school science teachers to collaborate with 4 groups of IANR faculty and graduate students engaged in applied STEM research around agriculture and natural resources. Teams collaborated to develop a series of high school level lesson plans aligned with science standards and suitable for use in a high school science (biology, physics, physical science, etc.) classrooms. 

Another critical outcome of these STEM initiatives is the work Nebraska Extension has implemented through Click2Science. Click2Science is a Nebraska-developed professional development tool for those working with front-line staff in out-of-school times. 

Click2Science helps the trainers or frontline staff gain skills in planning STEM learning experiences and build STEM skills in youth. Over the next three years, Click will reach 5,000 trainers who will enhance the skills of 75,000 front-line staff/volunteers serving 1,125,000 youth. 

Transforming Undergraduate Education 

There have been several classroom-based outcomes that align with our efforts in STEM education. Jenny Dauer is an assistant professor of practice in the UNL School of Natural Resources. Dauer has redesigned the introductory course that all CASNR freshmen are required to take to align with the framework for the Science Literacy Initiative. This is a foundational course for all CASNR freshman and reaches over 500 undergraduate students each year. 

Another way in which UNL is transforming undergraduate education is through the work of Joe Dauer, life sciences education researcher in the UNL School of Natural Resources. Dauer focuses on how undergraduate students learn biology. 

In 2014, Dauer along with Tomas Helikar in the UNL Department of Biochemistry, was awarded a $2.3 grant from the National Science Foundation to reshape life sciences teaching to meet modern day needs. Dauer expects future life sciences courses to be less “stand and deliver” by lecturers in auditoriums, and more interaction between instructors and students. Labs for these classes also will be taught differently, with more simulations and immersion into systems thinking. 

In addition, there is a new pathway for graduates from CASNR and other sciences to move into an accelerated program with an emphasis on science teaching. The Phase II Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grant from the National Science Foundation will provide scholarships for qualifying graduate students to participate in UNL’s Master of Arts with emphasis in science teaching (MAst) program. The 14-month program prepares students to teach middle and high school science. 

Potential participants include recent college graduates who have majored in science or science professionals who have strong academic backgrounds. Over the last five years, more than 50 science professionals have taken advantage of the MAst program at UNL, including a veterinarian, a physician and a forest ranger. This program is another example of innovative partnership initiatives being led by the Colleges of Education and Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences and Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Communications and Social Media for Institution:

Social Media Contact:

Haley Steinkuhler

IANR Media

402-472-4398

Hsteinkuhler2@unl.edu

Institution Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/unlianr

Institution Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/UNL_IANR

Hashtags: #IANRSciLit, #UNL

Address: 
1400 R St
Lincoln, NE 68588
United States
Phone: 
402-472-7211