|Zebra Staff Note:|
|The Teacher Feature highlights the positive impact or innovative work of a South Dakota teacher each month. If you have a suggestion for a Teacher Feature, contact Laura Haatvedt at (605) 773-2593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Mitchell science teacher helps shape future curriculum
Veteran teacher Julie Olson, of Mitchell, is lending her experience as a member of the Life Science writing team for the Next Generation Science Standards. As one of a handful of lead states, the work being done by Olson and others is invaluable as educators work to shape the science curriculum of the future.
“The standards will not only include scientific concepts but will emphasize the connections to process skills and cross cutting concepts across the curriculum. Since science is always changing, these skills will enable our students to make sense out of anything new that comes their way,” Olson said. “The NGSS will also incorporate engineering – the use of science to analyze and solve problems.”
An entirely state-led effort, one of the benefits of the Next Generation Science Standards will include more consistency from state to state.
“Our population is so mobile now that having a widely accepted science curriculum would make it easier for kids to pick up right where they left off as they move around,” Olson said.
Olson has been teaching for 24 years, the last 20 in the Mitchell School District. Her first teaching experience was teaching freshman biology lab in graduate school.
“What made it more interesting and challenging was that I had a visually impaired student. It really made me stretch to find adequate, meaningful ways to teach the concepts to this student, as well as others. I wasn’t done with my Master’s thesis but didn’t have any more courses I needed to take. I got my secondary teaching certification while finishing my thesis,” Olson said. “I was lucky enough to get to student teach with my high school biology teacher, Jerry Opbroek. I’ve always liked science but he had us do science that really applied to our lives. I wanted to be a science teacher like him.”
Each year, Olson looks forward to trying a new science lab, activity or analogy with her students. She enjoys science because it requires her to be constantly learning as well.
“There is always something new, it’s hands-on, and is easily applied to our daily lives. It’s a challenge to find ways to make complex topics interesting, relevant, and easier to understand,” Olson said of science. “I enjoy finding concrete ways to describe those sometimes abstract scientific ideas. It’s always fun to talk to former students to see what they are learning in their college or technical education science classes. I’ve had students send me copies of their research papers and they are really doing some amazing things.”
At the end of the anatomy unit in her advanced biology class, Olson takes her students to the SDSU campus to visit their anatomy lab. “I see these students go from ‘I don’t know if I am sure what I want to do after high school,’ to ‘I can do this. I really knew that!’”