May 25, 2024

Q&A: Jason Osborne on How to Help K–12 Students Discover the World of Science

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Jason Osborne is on a mission to give all students in his district access to high-level sciences, and he’s helping other K–12 districts to do the same.

As chief innovation officer of Ector County Independent School District in Texas, Jason Osborne is known for his efforts to increase science literacy and expose K–12 students to high-level sciences, such as bioengineering. He started Pick Education, which includes a network of universities, businesses and other organizations that collaborate to offer students opportunities in the sciences. Osborne is also president and co-founder of the nonprofit citizen-scientist organization Paleo Quest. He was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change in 2013.

MORE FROM EDTECH: How students use ed tech to further their STEM education.

Osborne talked with EdTech: Focus on K–12 about the value of exposing all students to high-level sciences.

EDTECH: What sparked your interest in introducing students to higher-level sciences?

OSBORNE: I grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, and the closest town was about 176 people. I didn’t have a lot of resources. When I graduated high school, I discovered a whole world of opportunities. One of my passions is to bring that world to students, to open up those doors. 

I was very lucky. I was pretty successful in many different facets, from doing aerospace defense work to engineering at a neuroscience institute, working with Nobel laureates and some of the best scientists in the world, as well as exploring paleontology. Some of the work I’ve done has been featured on National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, NPR and many other media outlets.

When I was working with a National Geographic affiliate, I spent a lot of time in school systems, and a lot of those school systems were in Texas, so I was really familiar with what was being taught and also what was missing in education. A lot of what was missing was that real-world connection where kids could actually be an extension of research and help drive research questions. I decided to go down the path of K–12 education. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: 10 keys to the future of STEAM education.

EDTECH: What are some ways that students benefit from exposure to high-level sciences?

OSBORNE: The chances of students getting full rides or partial scholarships are much higher. Some of our kids are going to leave high school with experience as advanced as post-doc research. For example, we’re rolling out a virtual solution where kids can do data processing in virtual reality. We’re working with a particular software that is taking advanced images and we’re able to upload those up into a VR system, and kids can go in and trace neurons and brain cell tissue or possibly look at stem cell data. Some research labs don’t even have access to this software, so our kids could possibly be driving research. That lends itself to students putting some fascinating descriptors on their resume.