M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Recently, more than 200 high school science teachers and university researchers gathered in San Diego, CA, for the 2023 Partners in Science National Conference. This gathering included participants from the Murdock Trust Partners in Science program, which pairs high school science teachers from the Pacific Northwest with university scientists for summer research projects. These partnerships give teachers a chance to refresh their teaching, reinvigorate their love of science, and bring new research experience back to the classroom (read examples here).

We also partnered with similar programs across the country, including Stanford University (Ignite), Cal Poly STAR Fellows, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Columbia University, Pennsylvania State University, and Iowa State University for a truly national conference celebrating innovative partnerships in education across the country.

A teacher presents his research at the 2023 Partners in Science National Conference

Teacher Presentations

At the conference, teachers had a chance to share their research through poster and oral presentations. Over the last 1-2 summers, these educators spent time in university labs or doing fieldwork that contributed to important research projects. From a physics teacher using gravitational waves to study the universe, to a biology teacher making surprising discoveries about soil ecosystems, these teachers shared the “aha” moments and exciting discoveries of their work.

“I’ve been a teacher for thirteen years, and this research is hands down the best professional development experience I’ve had,” one teacher shared.

In addition to being personally and professional enriched, educators shared that their classrooms are already benefiting. One explained that after their summer of research, they started writing lesson plans that helped students engage with data more. Another said that thanks to their new partnership with the university, they are regularly inviting graduate students into their high school classroom.

“This is the absolute cutting edge of science,” one teacher shared. “And I, and now my students, get to be part of it.”

Activities and Awards

Alongside these presentations, participants went on off-site tours that invited them to consider new topics, projects, and models for their classroom. They also selected workshops to hone in on educational strategies and tools, such as using nature as an inquiry-based science lab, creating critical consumers of information, and teaching science communication. In the evenings, participants heard from an outstanding lineup of speakers. Dr. Mary Lidstrom, professor of chemical engineering and microbiology and Frank Jungers Chair of Engineering at the University of Washington, gave our keynote presentation on her work reducing methane emissions. We also heard from Emily Carson and Dr. Raymond Najjar, who presented short “Jack Talks” on their latest research interests.

The presentation of the 2022 META Award at the Partners in Science National Conference

The time together ended with the presentation of the 2022 Murdock Exemplary Teacher-Researcher (META) Award. We were thrilled to give this award to Elizabeth Beks, science teacher at North Pole High School, for her work effectively promoting collaboration, advocacy, and problem-solving skills in her classroom and with colleagues on a national and local level. Read more about this distinguished award and Elizabeth’s work here.

To all those who showed up, presented, hosted workshops, led tours, and engaged at this conference, a heartfelt thank you! And most of all, thank you for the way you show up every day to your classrooms. You are enriching our schools, our students, our scientific community, and our region for the better.

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