University News

SciLi offers new space for science learning

By
New Editor
Friday, January 29, 2010

The new science resource center on the third floor of the Sciences Library will open Feb. 5 after months of extensive renovations shuttered the floor during the fall, Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron will announce in a campus-wide e-mail Friday. The multi-purpose space will serve as the home base for science education, outreach and support and provide a state-of-the art technological hub for the entire Brown community.

“By next Friday most of the space will be up and running, and we’d like students to be able to start using it right away,” Bergeron wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The center, which has an official launch party planned for March 3, marks the culmination of a years-long effort stemming from the Undergraduate Science Education Committee’s recommendation in 2007 to create a space for science support at the University.

“It’s going to bring faculty and students together across different science disciplines,” said David Targan, associate dean of the college for science education and the center’s director. “There’s no place quite like it.”

The resource center features flat-screen televisions, glass-paneled walls, a central meeting room with three projectors, individual wood study carrels, an outreach laboratory and six group study rooms, four of which are retrofitted with space for advanced smart boards.

Located throughout the center are also myriad visual displays, including images that can be enhanced with 3-D glasses and are broadcast from observatories and laboratories around the world, a planetary data center and a rotating globe showing the earth’s phases of daylight.

An interactive touch screen at the reception area allows students to sign up for study sessions that are already in progress in the center’s various rooms and reserve their own study spaces. “We want to pull people in and get them engaged,” Targan said. “It’s definitely state-of-the-art in terms of a learning space.”

The space contains rooms outfitted with white boards and conference tables for more effective group study sessions, a response to recommendations proposed in 2008 by one of the center’s focus groups, he said, adding that students will be able to reserve time in the rooms remotely through a Web site. Faculty and advisers will be available throughout the center, which will provide another venue for Brown’s “advising-central concept,” Targan said.

As part of Brown’s efforts to buoy its educational support system, the center will also serve as a locus for a new tutoring program. The program will involve a “group-study model” with an emphasis on study skills and problem-solving techniques for the larger science courses offered, said Instructional Coordinator Sarah Taylor, a specialist in science education and one of the program’s coordinators. The pilot support program, which has its first training session for tutors this Saturday, will be offered to students taking CHEM 0350: “Organic Chemistry” and PHYS 0040: “Basic Physics,” she said.

“The university is changing the model of how student study groups are available,” she said. “It’s hopefully something we are going to expand into other gateway courses.” 

In addition to providing a hub for the Brown community, the center will also be a space for students and teachers from across Rhode Island to devise experiments and bring them back to their own schools. An “outreach office” on one side of the center contains a lab bench with an overhead camera that projects live images onto a television screen at the front of the room.

“Inquiry-based science is just a much more potent way of science teaching,” Targan said. “That just enriches the science education that’s going on in the schools.”

The University also hopes to procure more science grants by championing the new center, he said, adding that Brown has already hosted meetings with state officials to promote the space.

“We’re a rich community engaged in doing science itself,” Targan said. “We’re trying to generate excitement about science in general and science at Brown.”