The JASON Project has honored Mary Cahill, Middle and Intermediate School science
teacher and Intermediate School academic dean, with its 2016 Education Leadership Award.
Formerly a division of the National Geographic Society, the JASON Project (named for the
mythical hero-explorer who captained the Argo) designs curriculum for K-12 inquiry-based
STEM education, promoting learning "that mimics what scientists are doing in the field,"
Ms. Cahill says.
In a career spanning 35 years (28 of them at Potomac), Mary Cahill has become a master
teacher and an advocate for inquiry-based learning in the sciences. She has served as a
consultant for National Geographic since 1994, training teachers in Canada, Japan, and
throughout the United States to effectively use various curricula produced by that
organization and its affiliates, including the JASON Project, Crittercam, Giant Traveling
Maps, and Geography Action. National Geographic has filmed Ms. Cahill's science lessons at
Potomac as examples of best practices in teaching, and she taught a master class entitled
"Exploring Your World with National Geographic" at the Chautauqua Institute in 2009. In
addition, Ms. Cahill has worked with the National Science Resource Center's Biodiversity
Academy since 2006.
At Potomac, Ms. Cahill partners with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to offer her students
unique and exciting learning opportunities. Under her direction, 6 th graders learn about an
urban watershed through hands-on experiences at the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers; 7 th
graders participate in an ecological restoration project involving underwater grass beds
(they grow the grass from seed at school then transplant it along the lower Potomac); and
8 th graders spend three full days on a remote island in the Bay, working as "watermen" and
"waterwomen" and learning about the connections between the Bay, its watershed, and
broader environmental issues. She says, "The opportunity to have our students experience
one of the most biologically productive estuaries in the world is a real treasure. When
students mirror the kinds of research scientists are doing in the field, they see that they too
can make a difference."
Ms. Cahill is a National Board Certified teacher; she has received a Woodrow Wilson
Teaching Fellowship (1994), a Fulbright Fellowship to Japan (1997), and a Grosvenor
Fellowship for travel to the Arctic Ocean (2009). Her undergraduate degree, in biology, is
from Regis College,and she earned a master's degree in science education at Boston University