From 2010-2015, SCWIBLES was a graduate training program for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) graduate students in environmental sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, in partnership with Watsonville High School in the Pájaro Valley Unified School District. SCWIBLES was a GK-12 program funded by the National Science Foundation.
Each year, five to eleven PhD students from the Environmental Studies or Ecology and Evolutionary Biology departments received year-long NSF fellowships to develop their skills as researchers and effective science communicators.
They worked with partner teachers from Watsonville, who also received stipends. Graduate Fellows and Teachers did hands-on environmental science research during the summer, then work together to develop and implement innovative, hands-on science and math education in Watsonville schools during the academic year. At the same time, SCWIBLES fellows continued to make progress on their own research leading to their PhD degrees.
Summer Research Fellowship Program
The summer program begins with a four-day workshop, in which graduate student Fellows and Watsonville Teachers practice inquiry-based science methods. They collaborate on inquiry projects designed in the tradition of the Organization for Tropical Studies field problems model, and begin to develop inquiry-based curricula for the upcoming school year. During the summer, Fellows and Teachers work in research partnerships. In the lab and in the field, Fellows practice their science communications skills by enlisting the help of their Teacher partners to complete parts of their own summer research. They choose specific components of their research that their partner can participate in and learn from, and explain each step of what they are doing.
Teachers work with Fellows as assistants, co-researchers, interactive audiences, and proactive curriculum developers. Meanwhile, they are updating the science concepts, skills, and methods they bring to their classrooms. The summer program wraps up with a workshop to begin to design and refine inquiry-based curricula that will be implemented in the coming academic year.
Inquiry-Based Learning and Education Training, Academic Year
During the school year, Fellows work in Watsonville schools with their Teacher Partners and their students to develop and implement inquiry-based curricula in the classroom, and on year-long science projects to meet senior capstone or Santa Cruz County Science and Engineering Fair requirements.
In addition, SCWIBLES sponsors science fairs, field trips, and community forums to highlight student science activities and accomplishments; to draw diverse local stakeholders in to the school and into environmental problem-solving discussions; and to open paths to STEM-based careers in environmental fields. SCWIBLES Fellows in particular take an active role in mentoring projects, building forums, and preparing students for these interactions with community members.
Fellows participate fully in the intellectual life of their respective academic departments at UCSC, while learning about science education. Each quarter, they enroll in a weekly seminar on inquiry-based education, and are encouraged to pursue the Designated Emphasis in Education Program, a series of courses that focus on educational theory and practice for effective science communication in a multilingual, multicultural society.
Coordinating Faculty and Staff
SCWIBLES is coordinated by dedicated faculty and staff including project director Gregory Gilbert (Professor of Environmental Studies); co-principal investigators Ingrid Parker (Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Doris Ash (Associate Professor of Education); Dan Johnston (Director of the Watsonville High School ESNR Academy); and Don Bard (Program Coordinator). Additional faculty from the departments of Environmental Studies, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Education serve as research advisors and resources to SCWIBLES Fellows.