Two Indiana educators will be honored for their innovative approaches to teaching science at the National Association of Biology Teachers Conference in Indianapolis in November.
Kirstin Milks, a science teacher at Bloomington South High School in Monroe County, will receive the Ecology and Environmental Science Teaching Award for developing and demonstrating an innovative teaching approach in ecology and environmental science and for carrying her commitment to the environment into the community.
“It’s pretty exciting to be recognized by educators who are really thinking beautifully and critically about education in this country, particularly about climate change, something that is going to touch all of our lives in increasingly immediate ways. Being recognized for that work is exciting,” Milks told Indiana Environmental Reporter.
Armin Moczek, Indiana University biology professor, will receive the Evolution Education Award for innovative teaching and community education efforts in the promotion of the accurate understanding of biological evolution.
“It’s confirmation that what I built over the years is recognized for its impact. I would do it anyhow, but the confirmation is very much appreciated, especially coming from teachers who are my heroes and experts in the educational trenches,” Moczek told Indiana Environmental Reporter.
Milks and Moczek will also present a workshop on human evolution at the conference.
“The workshop features a teaching unit I developed with significant input and guidance from Kirstin. We will present it together,” Moczek said. “The participating teachers will mostly play the roles of students working their way through the unit as if it were taught in a classroom, though on occasion we will be stepping out of that role and cover best practices in how to teach this unit, where to adjust for class size and composition, spin off content and others.”
The unit uses seven different data sets from fossils to artifacts and diet and climate data to put students in a position to reconstruct the last 6 million years of human evolution. It also focuses on the circumstances in which human evolution unfolded.
“The unit is well tested and has been used in hundreds of classrooms to date. We are now at a stage where we mostly want to disseminate as best as we can,” Moczek said. “Here great help comes from the National Center of Science Education, which selected the unit as part of its next generation evolution curriculum and is working hard to make it available nationwide.”
Moczek has been in the classroom for 26 years and has been a biology professor since 2004.
“Most of the problems society faces today can only be solved through serious implementation of scientific thinking. Science does not offer all the answers, but for all else we cannot survive without,” Moczek said. “At the same time, science education is spotty and lets too many young people fall through the cracks. It is this intersection between the awesome problem-solving power of science and the need to maximize the number of people to harness and benefit from that power to solve problems, make informed decisions when buying, voting, parenting and more where I try to make a small difference.”
Milks has been teaching for 13 years, and she currently teaches AP biology and earth and space science. She has received numerous honors for her teaching, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, in 2019.
“I want my students to begin to understand, and yes, love the world around us. I want them to see their own private parts of our world as connected to bigger systems and as changing over time in ways only scientists, both professional and community-science types, might notice. But most importantly, I want them to feel the agency we each hold in saving our planet, as well as the power of using science to exercise that agency collectively,” Milks said.