The late Irwin Slenick spent 33 years as a biology professor at Western, working to bring more hands-on learning to science education. “Sles,” who retired in 1996, knew even the youngest learners should have truly scientific experiences in the classroom.
“I want the children to be in charge of their learning,” he told the Bellingham Herald soon after receiving the National Science Teachers Association Robert H. Carleton Award, the group’s most prestigious honor, in 1998.
In addition to teaching generations of science teachers in his classroom, Slesnick and his wife Carole ran a science education supply business, Creative Dimensions, that was the first to bring owl pellets to hundreds of classroom science lessons. The Slesnicks sold Creative Dimensions to WWU alumni Bret and Kim Gaussoin, who continue to run the business as Pellets Inc.
After her husband’s death in 2012, Carole Slesnick and several others donated $105,000 to Western for the Sciences, Math and Technology Education Department, or SMATE. Irwin Slesnick’s memory lives on as the namesake of the annual Irwin L. Slesnick STEM Education Symposium, held each year in the SMATE building whose design he helped influence.
The Slesnick Symposium continues today: The most recent event was May 6 with University of Rhode Island science education scholar Bryan Dewsbury’s virtual keynote speech and workshop on inclusion in the STEM classroom.
Photos courtesy of WWU Libraries Heritage Resources