2011 OSTA Awards – Jack Renner Distinquished Service to Oklahoma Science Education Award

Dr. John W. “Jack” Renner taught science education at OU from 1962-1988, His work on the Learning Cycle in the 1970′s lead to its use as foundation for the Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS) and the Full Option Science System (FOSS).  The Learning Cycle approach and it’s underlying teaching philosophy of constructivism shows itself today in the inquiry approach defined by the National Science Education Standards (NSES) and the process skill development required by our own Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS).  Jack was recognized for his contributions by NSTA with the Robert H. Carleton Award, which annually recognizes one individual who has made outstanding contributions to, and provided leadership in, science education at the national level and to NSTA in particular. It is NSTA’s highest honor.  In like manner, the Jack Renner Award is OSTA’s highest honor given each year to a person or organization in recognition for significant contributions to science education in Oklahoma.

This year, we honor Dr. Victor Hutchinson, George Lynn Cross Research Professor emeritus for the University of Oklahoma.  Dr. Hutchinson’s list of accomplishments is long and varied.  A retired Colonel in the Army Reserve, a fellow in the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, a member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, holder of leadership positions in the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, author or co-author for nearly 150 peer reviewed scientific papers, supervisor for 28 PhD’s … The list goes on and on and Dr. Hutchinson has had a very full and active career as a research scientist and University professor.

But our story goes back to the dark days of 1999 when members of the state textbook committee attempted to introduce creationist textbook disclaimers into any textbook used in Oklahoma that discussed Evolution. I attended those hearings and so did Vic Hutchinson and through his efforts and those of others the disclaimers did not make it into law. But from that experience was born Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, founded by Vic with a small group of educators, scientists, theologians, laypersons, and persons interested in maintaining the constitutional separation of church and state.  There have been political efforts every year since 1999 to inject religion into public schools and diminish or prohibit the teaching of evolution in Oklahoma science classrooms.  And every attempt has been met by Dr. Hutchinson and his colleagues in OESE.  He is a tireless advocate for quality science education in our public schools, a regular representative on our behalf in the halls of the legislature, and is a frequent speaker to school and civic groups as well as a commentator on radio and television. He maintains the Oklahoma Evolution listserv, and the OESE website has become a treasure-trove of resources about evolution, evolution education, and science and religion. OESE also sponsors a number of education efforts and by leveraging grants and donations, has made a Teachers Evolution Workshop available to Oklahoma teachers for each of the last six years. His efforts in this realm have been recognized by the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, with their Constitutional Heritage Award, by the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance with their Award for Science Education and Anti-creationism Efforts, the National Center for Science Education, Friend of Darwin Award and now by the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association with the Jack Renner Distinguished Service to Oklahoma Science Education Award – Bob Melton

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