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Biologists, Educators Recognize Excellence in Evolution Education

W. Jason Niedermeyer receives 2010 NABT Evolution Education Award

For Release: 29 October 2010

Washington, DC -The National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) will recognize W. Jason Niedermeyer, a biology teacher at South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon, with the 2010 Evolution Education Award during the NABT annual professional development conference to be held 3-6 November 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Evolution Education Award is co-sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). The award is presented in recognition of innovative classroom teaching and community education efforts to promote the accurate understanding of biological evolution. Mr. Niedermeyer will receive a plaque, a $1,000 cash prize, and a one-year membership in AIBS.

"I love to teach evolution. This is no secret to my students -- I tell them at the beginning of the unit that it is my favorite thing to teach all year," said Niedermeyer.

This passion for teaching evolution is displayed in the innovative lesson plans that Niedermeyer meticulously plans for his students. "Instead of telling students that we are going to be studying evolution immediately after genetics--and risk having some students immediately object--I provide students with opportunities to discover natural selection the same way Darwin did by taking them through the same paces," said Niedermeyer. His curriculum focuses on inquiry-based learning and utilizes a range of student activities, including hands-on labs, class discussion, reading articles about recent scientific discoveries, and watching videos.

Niedermeyer has shared his unique approach to teaching evolution with other educators. Last year, he presented a seminar on teaching evolution to all of the high school biology teachers in the school district. He also spoke on the topic at Willamette University's Darwin Days in 2006. An article he wrote on scientific literacy, which appeared in Education Weekly, touches upon evolution education.

Niedermeyer's creative approach to teaching evolution has opened the minds of some students. "Teachers who can undertake such a charged topic while inviting this sort of confidence from their students are few and far between," said former student Marika Lou. "The passion and enthusiasm with which he would teach - especially when it came to evolution, which was quite obviously his favorite topic - made it difficult for any student not to feel the same way."

Niedermeyer, who has taught at South Salem High School since 2005, has received several grants to incorporate video analysis of animal behavior into the classroom. Most recently, he was awarded grants from Intel, Toyota, and M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to engage students in scientific research that studies the behavior of urban wildlife. He was also the recipient of the South Salem Teacher of the Semester in 2007.

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