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Community Project for Improving Science Education

My 7/31/2014 IAE Blog entry was titled A Successful Community Project for Improving Science Education (Moursund, 7/31/2014). The project was started by two retired scientists, Robert Collins and Cal Allen, who happened to meet in Sisters, Oregon. Sisters is a farming and resort community located in the Cascade Mountain Range, and has a population of about 2,100.

I was amazed at the popularity of my blog entry about this science education project. To date, it has had over 24,000 hits.

The Sisters Science Club they started is now five years old and continues to prosper. It provides a continuing example of a good answer to my question, “What can you do?” In this case, two people have significantly improved science education in the Sisters, Oregon, school district and community.

Quoting from the club’s website (Sisters Science Club, 2016):

Founded January 2011, the club is comprised of approximately 350 members–but there is no clubhouse, administration, or required annual dues. Rather, the club works by the community bringing volunteers and financial support to enhance the good ideas of the school's science teachers.

Did you happen to notice that this small town of 2,100 people has a science club with 350 member? Wow! I just received their annual report. Here is a list of their activities during the past year.

  • The Frontiers in Science Belfry program presented 8 monthly topics (see below) and gave lectures at the Oregon Science Teachers Association (OSTA), the Library (Secrets for a Healthy Brain) and the High School (Concussions in School Sports).
  • Highlights at the Elementary School included participation in the mousetrap car competition at the Fair, the Metolius River hike, and the trip to the Bend Science Station.
  • The Middle School 6th grade went to the 3-day Outdoor School, now in its 20th year (Brad Tisdale), heading to Camp Tamarack next year. Many students participated in the SciArt and mousetrap car contests. Carol Packard led the OSTA conference in Bend.
  • The Middle School 8th grade enjoyed the second year of ECoS (Environment, Community, Self – Mike Geisen & Rob Jensen) with hands-on outdoor education in geology (volcanoes, cave repelling), forestry, map making, fire ecology, environmental ethics, and oceanography.
  • Middle School parents (the Stephen Kings) formed a student club in computer coding (‘Dead Programmers Society’) that won a state competition.
  • At the High School, biology students spent 3 days at the Hutch Cancer Center in Seattle. Barb Schulz led a separate group of Burns students there also, sponsored by the Roundhouse Foundation. Students shared birding research with students in Kenya via Skype. Rima Givot published an article on ‘Citizen Science – a study of Hummingbirds,’ and was awarded her master’s degree. The year ended with Steve Pedersen leading student experiments in a weather balloon.
  • The Medical/Health CTE program under Heather Johnson had students going to St. Charles Medical Center, practicing on computerized dummies (AHEC), CPR training with Camp Sherman Fire Department, and Active Shooter Drills at the Redmond Airport. Heather presented ten years of research on student mental and behavioral health to the Central Oregon Research Council (CORC).
  • The 5th Annual Science Fair in February (Cal Allen) featured several new exhibits: human gyroscope, elliptical pool table, wrong way brain bicycle, and a mouse trap car competition.
  • The Seed-to-Table Program (Audrey Tehan) – connecting food, wellness and education – expanded teaching hours (nearly 1,000 students) and internship training, and brought more produce into the schools and Kiwanis food bank. Three Stereomicroscopes have been brought into the fields to study seed-> plant biology and soil science.
  • The Flight Science Program (Bensons) finished its third year with 15 students completing the 3rd trimester. Plans are for next year students to receive college credits thru the COCC’s Introduction to Aviation program.
  • David Hiller led Science Club volunteers, trenchers, plumbers, contractors, city/county inspectors to build a new greenhouse at the High School to be opened September, 2016.

What You Can Do

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead; American cultural anthropologist; 1901–1978.)

In my Information Age Education publications I continually stress that one person—for example, you—can make a significant difference in the world of education (Moursund, 2016). My message is simple. Don’t just sit around complaining about our educational system. Instead, do something help to improve it.


PS added 1/21/2018. The following is quoted from a recent email from Robert Colloins:

Hey folks - some great news to start 2018.
First, students in the 5th, 8th and 11th grades outperformed all other central Oregon schools on the 2017 state science test - kudos to the science teachers K-12.
Second - three high school students (Ethan Ferwalt, Ashonte Hull & Amy Hills) have won an international competition to join other students in Belgium in late April to send their experiments into near space (30-35km) on Asgard balloons. (see attached pdf).
Third - Gravitational waves! Larry Price will be giving us a Belfry talk in late March - but if you want to visit the LIGO detection site in Hanford, Washington, on February 10 with Bend Astronomy then check out this website, or contact Ken Czepka (
Fourth - The Sisters Science Fair will be on Saturday, March 17 and we want community members to participate! YES - that is YOU! The theme is 'outdoor science' so think about what you might do - a demonstration, exhibit or experiment. So far, one will be on tree rings and climate, and another will be on simulated river erosion. BUT there are many possibilities - birds, flowers, seasons, night sky and more. If you have an idea - your own, your family or a group - please contact Cal Allen(

References and Resources

Morrison, M.K. (2013). Using humor to maximize learning. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). Improving the world: What you can do. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from

Moursund, D. (5/12/2016). Building a personal library for children. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2014). Empowering teachers and learners. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from

Moursund, D. (7/31/2014). A successful community project for improving science education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from

Sisters Science Club (2016). Science club website. Retrieved 5/30/2016 from

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