LT’s Crean awarded science lab makeover
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
A Lyons Township High School science teacher has won a major makeover, but camera crews aren’t expected to swarm and capture the grand unveiling.
In fact, Jason Crean hasn’t determined how best to spend his winnings, but his students surely will benefit from his latest honor.
After receiving the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching a year ago, Crean learned in May he is one of four national finalists for the National Science Teachers Association Shell Science Lab Challenge.
Crean said he’ll be notified later this summer how the $8,500 prize will distributed, so he hasn’t yet determined how science labs at the LT South Campus in Western Springs could be revamped. The award, new this year, includes cash, donated lab equipment and supplies and certificates to purchase equipment and books and attend conferences.
“Our labs are pretty old,” he said. The school remodels several classrooms each summer, and science rooms are slated for renovation soon, he said.
As with the Presidential Award, the science lab honor recognizes Crean’s ability to incorporate real-world research and data analysis into his high school classroom, enriched by his science pursuits outside of LT.
In addition to instructing LT freshmen and sophomores for 10 years, Crean is a biology instructor at St. Xavier University in Chicago, his alma mater. He will be teaching a summer class at St. Xavier to high school teachers, helping them integrate the federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative into their schools.
Crean, who also breeds birds and organizes a spring expo in Wheaton for avian enthusiasts, has involved LT students in a study spearheaded by a St. Xavier professor on wild monk parakeets, which have been spotted in the La Grange area. He has received grants from the expo foundation and the university to continue the study.
Through the Indianapolis Zoo, he became involved in a project researching whether lemurs born as twins at zoos across the country are fraternal or identical, which can only be determined through a genetic analysis.
“I’ll be turning that into a classroom zoo genetics project hopefully next year,” he said. “It a lot of work, but learning through a text isn’t as meaningful as real-world research.”
In addition, Crean teaches courses and conducts genetics research and analysis for Brookfield Zoo, which also benefits his LT students.
Throughout the summer, he plans to visit his classroom several times a week to care for the residents of the vivarium, an indoor enclosure for raising live animals and observing them under natural conditions. The vivarium is home to various rodents, reptiles and amphibians.
“A lot of the animals come home with me for the summer. I call it Crean Camp,” he said. “I have a special pen in the back yard for the tortoises and turtles. Some were the size of a half dollar when I got them, and now they’re 14 to 16 inches long.”
A highlight of the Presidential Award was a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress, science advisors, administration officials and the president, Crean said.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the award has catapulted me to quite a few different things,” he said.