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AOS science teacher, Tassay Gillispie, is one of 50 selected nationally to work on a team in partnership with NASA and NPR to develop STEM climate change curriculum.

David Patton, Democrat-Herald

An Albany Options School science teacher has been chosen to join a group of 50 teachers nationwide to teach and evaluate curriculum on climate change.

Tassay Gillispie, who is in her fifth year of teaching science and art at AOS, will use climate change lesson plans designed by NASA and funded through a partnership with WGBH, a member station of National Public Radio.

She was chosen from a pool of close to 500 teachers for the project, "Bringing the Universe to America's Classrooms."

The curriculum is all online and technology-based. It is being provided at no cost to Greater Albany Public Schools, although the district did opt to send Gillispie for training next week as a part of the National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles. She'll also receive a $600 stipend from WGBH for participating.

Gillispie's class will start this fall. It will be an option for science credit, along with chemistry, biology, forensics, Oregon wildlife, astronomy and astrobiology.

As a member of the national teacher advisory group, Gillispie will give regular feedback on the lesson plans. That information will be used by both NASA and by Oregon State University, she said, which has its own study evaluating the lifelong effects of "STEM learning" — classes in science, technology, engineering and math.

Although she hasn't seen the materials yet, Gillispie said she expects them to give students a general awareness of what climate change is and how it works, and a foundation of knowledge in the possible causes.

It's a subject Gillispie already teaches as part of the Next Generation Science Standards, which Oregon is in the process of adopting, but something she wanted to learn more about herself as an educator. Plus, she said, "Working for NASA has always been a dream of mine." 

A 2003 graduate of Crescent Valley High School, Gillispie grew up in Corvallis. Her father recently retired from teaching science at Linus Pauling Middle School, and her mother taught elementary and middle grades at the former Highland View Middle School and at Cheldelin Middle School. Going into education, therefore, was a natural possibility, Gillispie said. 

She figures she'll probably be giving her students pre- and post-material tests to see what gains they made by using the new curriculum.

"My hope is that students will take away a scientific mindset to climate change, meaning that they are able to look at articles or data and formulate their own opinion based on scientific data and vocabulary," she said. "I also hope that when they are out in the world, they will be able to vote on things that pertain to the environment and their future."

Politicians may argue about the causes of climate change, Gillispie said, but in her research, "No scientist has ever come forth saying climate change isn't real." 

It's important, she said, that her students hear from people in the industry. 

"For me, getting materials from actual scientists is important because it gives more meaning to learning that me just standing in front of the class telling them how something is," she said.

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