Dornsife Award for Exceptional Service 2020: David Abelson

Abelson’s Acceptance Speech – Originally Published April 9, 2020

I want to express my sincere gratitude to all those who thought my work as an elementary teacher for thirty years at Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School, and as a Young Scientist Program (YSP) volunteer for the past three or so years after retiring, was worthy of this prestigious award. As a volunteer in the YSP office, I followed the lead of DJ Kast which sometimes involved “shlepping” up to the attic of the JEP house to retrieve supplies for the myriad of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) based lessons that DJ and her staff created to teach students in the schools surrounding the USC main campus, of which Weemes is a participant.

It’s not like I was seeking a cure for cancer, or COVID 19, or neuroscience! It’s not rocket science, or finding a solution for climate change! Many of the students who volunteer their time in the various JEP positions are already doing that, and are willing to share their knowledge with the students of those schools. Thank YOU!!!

When I was in the classroom, I was fortunate to participate in the YSP program. The lessons that TA’s such as Geoff Kusaka, Krupa Patel and Angelina Pan presented often supplemented my science program. My students were always engaged in these lessons because the lessons themselves were engaging. It always seemed that almost everyone was in attendance on the days that YSP was scheduled. The lesson on the water cycle using ziploc bags was memorable because of its simplicity. Those bags stayed up on the classroom windows for months, and my students would often look at the precipitation created. The students created models of plant and animal cells using candy. They created and studied sand slides in order to determine the evolution of coastal areas over time. They made kinetic designs that showed how electrical energy transfers into motion. While things sometimes didn’t go as planned, I used my classroom expertise to make sure my students got the most out of them. Aren’t unplanned surprises part of the scientific method?!?!? In addition, DJ and a research colleague gave a talk about their research in the Arctic.

Upon retiring from LAUSD in June of 2017, I asked DJ if she could use any assistance with YSP, and, to my surprise, she stated that she could. So here we are! Almost three years later! I have enjoyed myself immensely! In addition to the aforementioned supply “shlepping”, which DJ kindly calls “supply management”, I have helped in writing new lessons that are NGSS aligned. I’ve assisted in making sure that the current lesson curriculum is NGSS aligned. I helped plan a teacher professional development presentation given to schools that participate in YSP to help demystify the NGSS. I have helped in the writing of lesson assessment questions that are more performance task based rather that multiple choice or fill in the blank questions. I have also assisted with the after school workshops presented by YSP, Wonderkids, and MSP.

Most importantly, volunteering has given me the opportunity to meet the dedicated people working in the JEP House. What an inspiration it is to see students work so diligently to inspire students who attend schools in the USC community in addition to their own studies! Thank you all!