In February 1987, the "founders" (and faculty-to-be) met for the first time at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The occasion was the first meeting of the Task Force on Teacher Institutes of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) located in Berkeley, California and funded then by a grant that Stan Weinberg, the Founding Father of NCSE, had received from the Carnegie and Lounsbury Foundation. This began their decade of activity to promote Evolution teaching.
Jean Beard chaired that Task Force and called the meeting of its seven members to "brainstorm" various ideas for reaching and helping high school biology teachers to cope with the problems associated with teaching evolution. The four members (besides the three who ultimately became the ENSI faculty) were: Dr. Ronald Pine (IMSA), Dr. George Magrane, Dr. Adela Elwell, and Ms. Frances Vandervoort (Biology Teacher). From that and subsequent meetings, the Task Force applied to the National Science Foundation for a Teacher Enhancement grant. That proposal was denied based on its being overstaffed and too grandiose for an initial effort, even though the reviewers thought the basic idea was good. In 1988 with Carnegie funding expiring and Task Force members going on to other projects, Jean Beard and Craig Nelson decided to write a second, smaller proposal to NSF entitled "Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes for High School Biology Teachers." Martin Nickels was included as a faculty member, giving us one science educator, one biologist, and one anthropologist, a bare bones minimum staff. This proposal was funded in 1989. Jean, Craig, and Martin have served as Co-Directors and faculty of the Institutes since its beginning.
The main objective of ENSI is to improve the teaching of evolution in High School Biology courses by encouraging teachers to teach evolutionary thinking in the context of a more complete understanding of modern scientific thinking (see Nickels et al article on this site).
The trio met in Seattle at the NSTA convention in March and began the planning of a detailed institute. Planning was refined in June 1989 at Indiana University in Bloomington a few days before greeting 30 high school biology teachers on the "opening day" of the first ENSI. The program eventually received two more NSF grants funding a total of 6 years of ENSIs (and moving the operation to San Jose in 1992) and 6 years of "Satellite"-ENSIs, or "SENSIs". The SENSI concept was for experienced ENSI teachers, with additional training, to become "Lead Teachers", and teach the ENSI program to other teachers in two-week local institutes.
From 1989-94, 180 teachers from wide-ranging areas of the country were taught by the faculty. This turned out to be phase one. In phase two, 38 teachers from the first five ENSIs were given a second Summer of preparation to become pairs of Lead Teachers. In phase three, 49 SENSIs (satellite ENSIs) were taught by the Lead Teachers from 1992-98 to more that 650 teachers. The Lead Teachers have been active in making other presentations at places such as NABT and state meetings.
Now we are in phase four, with ENSIweb. In this way we are sharing the objectives and teaching materials with a still larger audience. We have included the names of ENSI and SENSI teacher participants. We have learned that having a colleague to talk with about teaching new information and using new materials is very helpful. If you know any of our participants, ask them to assist you in sharing their experiences with the lessons which are here. In addition, we have listed COLLEAGUES who can help you, and their email addresses.
To help create and develop the website, Larry Flammer joined the team in 1997. He was a 1992 ENSI participant in San Jose, CA, and a SENSI Lead Teacher for three years. His recent retirement has allowed him the time needed to build ENSIweb.
Support through NSF/TPE grants 88-555-60 and 90-555-85 to the Indiana University Foundation and 91-552-59 to the San Jose State University Foundation was absolutely essential to these efforts.
The philosphy and content of the ENSI program is presented in somewhat greater detail in two recent articles authored by the ENSI faculty:
Nelson, C.E., M.K. Nickels, and J. Beard. (1998). "The Nature of Science As a Foundation for Teaching Science: Evolution As a Case Study". In W.F. McComas (Ed.),The Nature of Science in Science Education. (Chapter 20, pp. 315-328). Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Nickels, M.K., C.E. Nelson, and J. Beard. (1996). "Better Biology Teaching by Emphasizing Evolution & the Nature of Science". The American Biology Teacher 58(6), September , pp. 332-336. (Available on this site).
|Dr. Jean Beard
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0100
|Dr. Craig E. Nelson
Department of Biology
Bloomington, IN 47405
Campus Box 4640
Illinois State University
Normal, IL 61790-4640
Central to the ENSI program is the importance for students to learn the nature of modern science (including its uncertainty and other limits) as it is conceptualized and practiced today, before introducing the elements of evolution as an example of modern scientific thinking. Much of the misunderstanding about evolution, and much of the perceived "conflict" between science and religion claimed by some people can be traced to misinformation about both science and evolution as both are understood and used by modern scientists.
A valid literacy in science entails knowing what science CAN do, what science CANNOT do, and HOW science is actually done in the real world of scientists. Science should be understood as a very useful and reliable way of knowing how the natural world works. One of the best examples one could use to help illustrate the nature of modern science is the theory of evolution. This concept is fundamental to all of biological and medical science today, as well as many other scientific disciplines. Evolutionary theory, as it is understood and used in science today, is also widely misinterpreted, misapplied and misunderstood by most people.
Clearly, any biology course today which does not fully and accurately present and use the theory of evolution is a woefully incomplete biology course. Just as importantly, because a clear and accurate understanding of evolutionary thinking rests on a clear and accurate understanding of science, learning about the nature of modern science should precede learning about evolution. Both of these topics are probably most effective and useful when presented very early in the biology course.
The following 32 concepts include SOME of the key ideas used in the ENSI/SENSI program.
The attached outline contains much of the conceptual basis for the ENSI project. Its essential content was presented and discussed during the ENSI institutes.
Careful reading and review of this material will be most valuable before the lessons on this site are used in your classes. This is especially true when it comes to questions about certain terms which are often misunderstood and misused by the public and the popular press.
You can see this useful outline by clicking the title above.
(May not work on all systems)
Oftentimes, where handouts or other pages are structured in a specific way, or contain diagrams, the internet language (html) doesn't always display this structure as intended on all computer systems. Consequently, those pages may have been placed into "pdf" files, (using Adobe Acrobat), which you can access from the lesson using Adobe Reader (available free by downloading from Adobe). This will give you true-form pages for you to print out if desired. PDF is critical to full usability of the lessons on this site, so be sure you can read pdf files; if you can't, get help (see below); it IS easy to use once it's set up.
Usually, only a "thumbnail" reduced size image of the first page is showing (if more than one page is in that file). For enlarging and copying, (and seeing other pages in that file), you will need to download the free Acrobat Reader from Adobe (unless it's already installed in your system). Then just click on the blue file name above, below, or next to the first pdf page. You may see the "Acrobat Exchange" (Reader application) loading, then the pages will display. You might need to shift-click and drag the lower left corner of the page to enlarge it, or click the magnifying glass on the menu bar.
If this doesn't seem to work, you might need to load and/or enable the plug-in (PDFViewer in Macs) by following one of these protocols (may differ in other systems):
For Netscape Communicator: EDIT>Preferences>Navigator>Applications (then scroll down to "Portable Document Format (PDFViewer)", click on it, then click OK; if it's not there, click on "New", and add it in).
For Netscape Navigator: OPTIONS>General Preferences>Helpers (scroll to check for PDF on list, add it if it isn't, then click OK to activate it.
For other browsers, or problems with this, check with your browser tech support, Adobe tech support, or, in dire frustration, e-mail me. If nothing else, I will mail you hard copy of the formatted pages desired.
ADOBE TECH SUPPORT: Excellent resource, answers to all your pdf problems!