Julie Olson

Second Chance High School


Julie Olson

For most of her career, Julie has taught high school level biology and chemistry, as well as part-time biology in universities, teaching the top students in honours science courses. Recently, she was given the opportunity to develop and teach science courses for at-risk students in the district alternative school, Second Chance High School in Mitchell, South Dakota – and she jumped at the chance, as she believes in the importance of science for all.

One tactic she has found extremely effective is using a cross-curricular approach that aims to meet the interests of individual students. For example, a student primarily interested in art can access science by reviewing the work of Da Vinci or Alexander Calder from this new angle. She acquaints her students with the tools and methods of practising scientists and uses hands-on examples, showing that science is a real-world activity that offers interesting jobs, and not just a set of diagrams. She also involves her high school students in weekend science workshops for young children, and trains them as Visiting Senior Scientists to take science activities to elementary schools.

Julie puts her classes into a global perspective, for example by having students post their local water quality to the World Water Monitoring website, building solar cookers and discussing their usefulness for third-world countries, and mentoring students who take part in the International Science and Engineering Fair.

Julie was involved in writing the new national and state science standards and helped train over half of the state’s science teachers regarding the Next Generation Science Standards. In addition to pursuing her doctorate in curriculum and instruction, she is very active in her local community.