June 2011

D.C.-area science teachers experiment with partnerships

  

Workshop pairs educators with college faculty to develop hands-on activities for students.  


 Dozens of D.C.-area junior high science teachers looking for new ways to encourage their students to pursue high-tech studies and careers will gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as part of the Experimental Biology meeting. 

Sponsored in part by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the free four-hour event was intended as a means to pair local teachers with college and university faculty members from across the region to forge partnerships that will support their efforts over future years. In addition to hearing about ongoing outreach activities being conducted, participants also engaged in potential in-class projects. 

“The truth of the matter is that if we really want to retain students in science, we need to start earlier,” explained Regina Stevens-Truss, a professor at Kalamazoo College who masterminded and co-organized the event. “The idea was to somehow try to find a way to bring teachers and college faculty together to make science more hands-on and less textbook, because, as we all know, science isn’t taught from a textbook.” 

Thanks in part to a $24,500 grant from the National Science Foundation, select teacher participants were able to apply for and get funding to develop and incorporate hands-on activities and projects related to biochemistry and molecular biology into their classrooms. The projects required collaborations between the teachers and college scientists. 

Stevens-Truss emphasized that the materials needed for such activities rarely are expensive, so even small seed grants will go a long way. 

“They can use simple things like coffee filters and pipe cleaners to teach separations, for example,” she explained. “These teachers already know what the learning outcomes are, but they may not know how to make them actually happen. If they don’t know what to do, their faculty partners can give them ideas on how to incorporate activities.”

The event included talks by scientists and educators with experience in developing science, technology, engineering and math outreach partnerships. The speakers also covered how to use online communication tools to engage the public and how to implement research experiences at the junior high and high school levels.

Angela Hopp (ahopp@asbmb.org) is managing editor for special projects at ASBMB.


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