Current news

Current news

OESE Annual Meeting

The 2017 Board of Governors of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education is holding its annual meeting 2:00 to 4:00 PM Sunday, November 5, in the conference room of the Oklahoma Biological Survey, 111 E. Chesapeake St., Norman.
General members are invited to attend the meeting, although they cannot vote.

Oklahoma native among three Americans to earn Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine

Oklahoma City native Michael Rosbash along with Jeffrey C. Hall and Michael W. Young won the $1.1 million prize for their work on finding genetic mechanisms behind circadian rhythms, which adapt the workings of the body to different phases of the day, influencing sleep, behavior, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism.

They “were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings,” the Nobel citation said.

“Circadian dysfunction has been linked to sleep disorders, as well as depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory formation and some neurological diseases,” according to a Nobel background report.

The awardees’ work stems back to 1984, when Rosbash and Hall, both at Brandeis, along with Young isolated the “period gene” in fruit flies. Hall and Rosbash found that a protein encoded by the gene accumulated during the night and degraded during daytime. A decade later, Young discovered another “clock gene.”

The work was done using fruit flies.

Teaching award finalists from Oklahoma

The state Education Department has announced four Oklahoma finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at the secondary level.

The finalists are Telannia Norfar, math teacher at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City; Cheryl Brannum, math teacher at Canadian Valley Technology Center in Yukon; Megan Cannon, director of science and engineering for the state Education Department; and Julie Klingensmith, math teacher at Norman High School.

The awards are the highest honors given by the U.S. government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science (including computer science) teaching. National recipients represent all 50 states and U.S. territories.

Finalists must have demonstrated a mastery of math and science instruction and effective use of students assessments to improve learning. Awards alternate each year between elementary and secondary teachers.

Congratulations to all and good luck!

OESE congratulates Oklahoma Teacher of the year, Donna Gradel

Donna Gradel was named 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year on Sept. 19 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.  She teaches science at Broken Arrow High School in Broken Arrow Public Schools. She has been an educator for 29 years and has held her current position for 21 years.  Her statement in her application:  “A teacher is not only an integral part of the educational community but can be a powerful model of good citizenship throughout his or her local and extended communities.”

“Donna understands the true potential of each of her students,” said Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “She differentiates instruction to meet the needs of each individual, challenges them to solve real-world problems, then goes one step further by modeling opportunities to implement their innovations to make a difference in the lives of people in Oklahoma and across the globe.”

Congratulations Ms. Gradel from OESE.

OESE congratulates Julie Angle

OESE Board member Julie Angle received a $599,652 National Scieence Foundation grant to focus on undergraduate research experiences for future science educators.

Angle will work with co-principal investigators and fellow OSU faculty Donald French, Andrew Doust and Carissa Ramming to address the challenge of providing undergraduate research experiences for all students pursuing a bachelor of science degree with an option in teacher certification at the secondary level.

The model provides them with extensive mentoring by faculty and graduate students from multiple science and engineering disciplines and colleges across the university. Research mentors will be offered quality professional development designed to deepen mentors’ understanding of the K-12 science classroom and skills in transitioning their STEM research to that environment.

OESE congratulates Bob Melton

OESE Board Member Bob Melton received the Jack Renner Distinguished Service to Oklahoma Science Education Award from the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association.  The award is presented annually to “individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science education in Oklahoma”.  The award was presented at the OSTA’s annual conference on June 8.  Congratulations, Bob!  More at NCSE and National Association of Biology Teachers newsletter.

Anti-science legislation in 2017 Oklahoma legislature

Two science bills have been filed for the 2017 Oklahoma legislature, both in the Senate.

SB 393 was not heard on the House floor before the April 27 deadline and is dead for now.  Thanks to all who sent messages.  Numbers DO count.  SB 393 passed the House General Oversight and Accountability Committee  April 13 by a vote of 4-3.  SB 393 passed the Senate by a vote of 34-10 on March 22.  SB 393 passed the Senate Education Committee on  Monday, February 27.   The vote was 13-1.  SB 393 by Josh Brecheen,  the Oklahoma Science Education Act. The bill says public school officials shall “endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” This is standard creationist language to allow anti-science information into the classroom. The bill is nearly identical to SB 1322 introduced last year which was never heard in the Senate Education Committee. More info at NCSE and the Sensuous Curmudgeon.  The bill is very similar to a bill defeated in the South Dakota Senate.  Opponents of that bill are calling it the “Alternative Facts Bill”.  You may want to use that terminology for SB 393 as well.   Letters in opposition to the bill have been sent by AIBS, NSTA, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, NABT, and the National Coalition Against Censorship.   See this analysis of the bill for newer talking points.  Other new talking points here.  Additional talking points here and here.     Coverage of the House committee hearing at Huffington Post, US News and World Report, E&E News, Okie Funk, the Oklahoman, and many other venues.

SB 450 passed the Senate by a vote of 41-3 on March 22 with only Senators Floyd, Pittman, and Sparks voting against. the bill.  SB 450 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 21.  SB 450 by Allen, creating the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. Although the bill does not specifically address science education, it could possibly be used to allow non-scientific answers to science questions  The bill is unnecessary to protect student expression of religious viewpoints, because most of the provisions of the bill already exist in current law. It sets forth rights already guaranteed by the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions and federal and Oklahoma state law,  as well as recommendations made in federal guidelines.  A similar bill passed in Texas several years ago, but has not been acted upon by any Texas school district.  See this analysis of a previously introduced bill for additional talking points.  Additional talking points here.  The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary – Civil and Environmental Committee.   The bill was not heard in the House committee before the deadline and thus the bill is currently dead.  Thanks to all who sent messages.  Numbers do count.

See the Anti-science legislation in 2017 Oklahoma legislature post for up-to-date info.

Talk on Evolution/Creationism “Conflict” in Norman on May 7

“Evolution/Creationism “Conflict”: Intelligent Design is Politics and Religion, Not Science” will be presented by Dr. Victor Hutchison, George Lynn Cross Research Professor of Biology, University of Oklahoma on Sunday, 7 May, at 7:00 P.M. at First Presbyterian Church in Norman (555 S. University Blvd., 1 block north of OU Campus). The talk will cover brief history of the conflict, how Intelligent Design claims fail, current status of the ‘conflict,’ and Oklahoma Legislative attempts to pass creationist bills. Parking available directly across the street from the Church.Open to Public.

OESE congratulates Oklahoma mathematics and science teacher winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

President Obama named 213 mathematics and science teachers as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  The educators will receive their awards at a ceremony in Washington, DC on September 8.  Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion, and are invited to Washington, DC, for an awards ceremony, as well educational and celebratory events, and visits with members of the Administration.

Oklahoma winners are:

Rebekah Hammack, Stillwater Middle School, Science,
Moriah Widener, Jenks West Intermediate School, Mathematics,
Teri Kimble, Hydro-Eakly Middle School/High School, Science
Jamie Rentzel, Norman High School, Mathematics

Congratulations to all!

OU offers new online course on climate change starting August 17

The University of Oklahoma will be offering a new online course called “Managing for a Changing Climate.”

According to a press release sent by Aparma Bamzai of the South Central Climate Science Center, the free semester-long course will focus on components of the climate system and how it impacts multiple facets of economy, policy, ecosystems and indigenous populations through a study of natural climate variability and external drivers of climate change.

The course will launch on Aug. 17.

Sign up for the course here.  The course is free to anyone without requirements, tests, or credit.  OU students can signup as a for-credit course out of the geography and meteorological departments at OU.

2016 AJAS Dallas Cocke Winner

OESE is pleased to congratulate McKalee Steen from Grove High School for being named one of the 2016 American Junior Academy of Science Dallas Cocke Award winners.  She presented her junior year research at AJAS this past February, which was “The Heavy Metal Movement Phase II:  A field and laboratory study of Panicum virgatum L. and its ability to photoremediate soil from the Tar Creek Superfund Site.”  Congratulations, McKalee!

Anti-science legislation in 2016 Oklahoma Legislature
Update: The 2nd Regular Session of the 55th Legislature adjourned Sine Die at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 27, 2016. No anit-science legislation was passed.
The two anti-science bills introduced for the 2016 Oklahoma legislative session are dead. Neither SB 1322 nor HB 3045 were passed out of their respective committees before the February 26 deadline and are marked as dormant on the Legislature web site. Thanks to all who sent messages to the committees. Numbers DO count.
SB 1322 by Josh Brecheen, the Oklahoma Science Education Act. The bill says public school officials shall “endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” This is standard creationist language to allow anti-science information into the classroom. The bill is identical to SB 665 introduced last year which was never heard in the Senate Education Committee. More info at NCSE.
HB 3045 by Sally Kern, the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act. If enacted, the bill would require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught,” prohibiting administrators from interfering. As introduced, the bill specifically mentions “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as subjects which “some teachers may be unsure” about how to teach. The bill is virtually identical to other recent bills supported by Kern. More info at NCSE. The bill was assigned to the House Rules Committee.
The bills have gathered quite a bit of national attention from Ars Technica, BoingBoing, and Slate. The national attention has even prompted a response from the Discovery Institute. Local bloggers, The Lost Ogle and Okie Funkhave also commented.

In a new paper forthcoming in Science, Nick Matzke shows that even though creationism is getting stealthier in the wake of legal defeats such as Kitzmiller v. Dover, techniques from modern evolutionary biology reveal how creationist legislation is evolving. Using data collected by NCSE and state-of-the-art phylogenetic analysis, Matzke constructed a phylogenetic tree of seventy-five distinct antievolution bills and policies, reconstructing their genealogical relationships with a high degree of confidence.
“The Evolution of Antievolution Policies after Kitzmiller v. Dover” identifies the common ancestor of the bills as a series of bills proposed in Alabama in 2004 and 2005. It also discerns two main lineages, the “academic freedom act” lineage and the “science education act” lineage, which resulted when “academic freedom acts” began to target not only evolution but also global warming and human cloning. The latter lineage thrived, with the passage of such bills in Louisiana in 2008 and Tennessee in 2012. More coverage at Panda’s Thumb, Sensuous Curmudgeon, and Ars Technica. Here is the easiest to read tree from Ars Technica:

From Climate Central, the eight biggest climate stories including 2015 as hottest year, and the Paris climate agreement

Some recent blog posts from OESE President Stan Rice
A Creation Story of the Yoruba People
Bible Faith and Bible Understanding (Bible believers don’t know any more about the Bible than non-believers)
Intelligent Design as Explained by Sock Puppets

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