M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Program marks three decades of service, honors Salem-Keizer teacher

Vancouver, WA – The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust celebrated the 30th anniversary of Partners in Science this week at the professional development program’s annual conference.

Partners in Science is a unique opportunity for high school science educators from around the Pacific Northwest to work one-on-one with a mentor conducting cutting-edge science research in an academic lab, a lab associated with another nonprofit institution or a national lab. Participants spend two summers in this environment, bringing their experiences back to their classrooms during the school year to help facilitate hands-on research to inspire and engage students from all backgrounds.

“Our benefactor, Jack Murdock, believed strongly in the power of hands-on research to inspire learning and spark innovation, particularly in the areas of STEM subjects that are so critical in our modern world,” said Dr. Moses Lee, senior program director for scientific research and enrichment programs, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. “We hear from educators regularly that this type of professional development opportunity is incredibly valuable in helping grow and enrich their teaching experience. We are grateful to play a small role in supporting educators in all communities across the Pacific Northwest.”

Partners in Science

Since it was founded in 1990, nearly 600 teachers from public and private high schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington have had the opportunity to grow their professional experience by collaborating on science research with researcher mentors through the Partners in Science program. Nearly 340 educators have returned for an additional session and continued mentorship.

Participation in the two-year program is funded entirely through a Murdock Trust grant. In addition to the two-year mentorship program, participants also attend an annual conference, where they have the opportunity to present their work to their peers. Following the original grant, partners can apply for a two-year supplemental grant to translate their research experiences back to their classroom; thus, directly transforming their habits of teaching and student learning.

“Science can’t just be taught with a text book and lecture notes. Teachers and students need to have an opportunity to see how the work comes to life in real-world scenarios,” said Kim Newman, program director, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Newman oversees the Partners in Science program and was a former participant when she was a biology and technology teacher at Camas High School. She notes that the impact of Partners in Science can be felt both by students and by the participants themselves.

“Many of our educators report feeling an increased confidence in their teaching after completing the program,” Newman added. “But we also see it in the classroom. Many Partners alumni transition from a ‘recipe’ style of lesson planning—where students are told to follow specific steps that will lead to a specific result—to an inquiry- based lesson plan, where students are given an opportunity to experiment with no defined path and the opportunity to hypothesize and discover the outcome themselves.”

Honoring Excellence

As part of the Partners in Science 30-year anniversary, the Murdock Trust introduced the new Murdock Exemplary Teacher-Researcher Award (META), honoring outstanding service by a Partners participant. This year’s winner, Dr. Jason Niedermeyer, is a biology teacher at South Salem High School and adjunct professor at Western Oregon University. 

“Dr. Niedermeyer is the definition of what the Partners in Science program is about as he is regularly praised by faculty and students for finding ways to bring science to life and get his students excited about research,” said Newman. “We are so pleased we can honor his outstanding work at this year’s conference and that we will be able to recognize more educators at future conferences.”

META includes an $8,000 cash award that is shared between the recipient and their school to support future, hands-on research opportunities.

For more information on the Partners in Science Program, please visit our website murdocktrust.org.

About M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust

The Murdock Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. Since its inception in 1975, the Trust has awarded more than 6,800 grants totaling more than $1 billion. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and on our website.

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