Research Article Open Access

Using Culture, Policy and Traditional Knowledge to Improve Engagement in Science Courses

Lawrence K. Duffy, Catherine Hurt Middlecamp, Anna Godduhn and Cindy E. Fabbri


Problem statement: In our undergraduate science courses, we need to engage students by including the current issues and concerns of our students as well as recognizing the place-based context in which they learn. Including culture, policy and traditional knowledge when it intersects with a chemical principle and a challenging real world issue adds concreteness to the scientific process. Approach: Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (SENCER) is a national dissemination project for courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. SENCER courses connect science and civic engagement by teaching through complex, capacious, current and unresolved public issues to the underlying scientific principles. The more that our students were exposed to culturally responsive interdisciplinary science courses that encompass biocomplexity, the more prepared they will act as agents of long term stewardship through periods of rapid change and ecological challenge. It was therefore critical that issues such as sustainability, environmental health, food security, justice and precaution be integrated into science teaching. In studying public issues of the north, students and faculty can use examples from traditional knowledge to illustrate the use of science principles. Results: As part of the IPY UARCTIC effort, examples from climate change, nutrition, nuclear science and chemical ecology were developed to illustrate this integration. The courses adapted and delivered at an arctic university will illustrate the benefits of integrating social and cultural topics with science. Student responses showed an increase in interest in science. Conclusion: The adapt and adopt process is synergistic and should be goal oriented. This approach was especially relevant to minority and indigenous students who were engaged in the issues of their local community. The SENCER approach to arctic science creates a legacy of new, engaging courses in the north.

American Journal of Applied Sciences
Volume 6 No. 8, 2009, 1560-1566


Submitted On: 7 July 2009 Published On: 31 August 2009

How to Cite: Duffy, L. K., Middlecamp, C. H., Godduhn, A. & Fabbri, C. E. (2009). Using Culture, Policy and Traditional Knowledge to Improve Engagement in Science Courses. American Journal of Applied Sciences, 6(8), 1560-1566.

  • 4 Citations



  • Civic engagement
  • radioactivity
  • ecology
  • chemistry
  • traditional knowledge
  • community