October 2013

HOPES seed-grants program to enhance STEM K-12 education: impact and what’s next

The HOPES initiative has resulted in 27 partnerships in 22 cities across the U.S. and has affected the education of more than 3,600 fourth- through 12th-graders. Pins indicate the 22 cities where HOPES partnerships and projects have been initiated.

In 2009, when we envisioned the Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science program, we didn’t anticipate the sweeping impact the program would have across the nation. But as the map here indicates, this project has the potential to permeate hundreds of schools and impact the science education of thousands of students.
The program

Part I: a three-hour workshop during the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting intended to aid K – 12 and college educators’ partnerships
Part II: a competitive grant opportunity, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, intended to foster new partnerships that develop after the ASBMB annual meeting
Part III: the performance of the funded project during the school year

See the October 2011 issue of ASBMB Today for a full description of the HOPES program.
Follow-up of the funded projects
In the first two years of the HOPES program, 16 funded projects have been conducted.

  • • In 2011, 10 partnerships received funding. The 10 projects were conducted during the 2011 – 2012 school year, with more than 2,000 students primarily in grades 4 through 12 engaging in hands-on science projects. We asked project leaders for some demographic information on the students impacted by each project. Five of the 10 project organizers reported that more than 25 percent of the students involved were from ethnic groups that traditionally are underrepresented in the sciences or were from low socioeconomic households. Nine of the projects were conducted with students in grades 9 through 12, three with students in grades 5 through 8, one with students in grade 4, one with a community college class and one with a teacher-certification class.
  • • In 2012, six partnerships received funding. The 2012 projects were conducted during the 2012 – 2013 school year, with more than 1,600 students in grades K – 12 participating. The leaders of four of the six projects reported that more than 50 percent of the students involved were from underrepresented groups. Four projects involved students from low socioeconomic households. Two projects were conducted with 10th- through 12th-graders, one with seventh-graders, two with fifth- and sixth-graders, and one with kindergarteners through fifth-graders. See the September 2012 issue of ASBMB Today for samples of project outcomes.
  • • In 2013, 11 new partnerships received funding. These projects will be conducted during the 2013 – 2014 school year. (See list of project descriptions.)

What’s next?
The HOPES program may be a model that could be used to decrease the educational gap between children in the U.S. Although the program does not target projects in schools with underrepresented students, the majority of the projects funded so far appear to affect a high percentage of students from public K – 12 schools, which tend to be populated by students from ethnic groups classically underrepresented in the sciences and by students from low-income households.
With the U.S. population becoming increasingly ethnically diverse and projected to have a nonwhite majority by 2050, it is paramount to find ways to ensure that the next generation of primary- and secondary-school students is well educated. A well-educated public is important for national security reasons, and a public educated in science, technology, engineering and math will ensure our economic advantage in the world.
We hope to continue to conduct the HOPES workshop during the annual meeting. We also plan to continue to inform educators in cities not hosting the ASBMB annual meeting about the HOPES project; just this past August, the program was highlighted in Seattle at the ASBMB’s biannual Student-Centered Education in the Molecular Life Sciences special symposium. We are working on securing funds to continue the mini-grant program that supports the educational partnerships that have successfully impacted student education.

Regina Stevens-TrussRegina Stevens-Truss (regina.stevens-truss@kzoo.edu) is an associate professor of chemistry at Kalamazoo College and a member of the ASBMB Minority Affairs and Educational and Professional Development Committees.


  1.   1. Engineering biology: outreach and opportunities for K – 12 students: a collaboration between Natalie Kuldell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rebekah Ravgiala at Tyngsborough High School in Tyngsborough, Mass.
  2.   2. Fostering science interest among 6th-grade students using engaging, inquiry-based activities at Western Alamance Middle School: a collaboration between Jennifer Uno at Elon University and Susan Dixon at Western Alamance Middle School, both in Elon, N.C.
  3.   3. Curiosity: a secrecy of over a century, from polypoid giant cells to cancer stem cells: a collaboration between Yinsheng Wan of Providence College and Scott Macbeth at Classical High School, both in Providence, R.I.
  4.   4. Fostering undergraduate biology student engagement in local high-school biology classrooms: a collaboration between Ann Williams at the University of Tampa, Audrey Shor of Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Fla., and Denise Dennison at Wharton High School in Tampa, Fla.
  5.   5. Adventures in macromolecular structure and chemistry: a collaboration between Craig Mello at the University of Massachusetts at Worcester and Javier Anduaga at BASIS Mesa in Arizona
  6.   6. Introduction to gel electrophoresis and DNA analysis: a collaboration between James Hazzard at the University of Arizona and Stephen Wollerman, Leslie Shultz-Crist and Richard Reyes at San Miguel High School in Tucson, Ariz.
  7.   7. Promoting in-depth human health exploration through guided individual projects utilizing genomic sequencing technologies: a collaboration between Maarten Chrispeels and Danjuma Quarless, both at the University of California, San Diego, and Matthew Leader at High Tech High School in San Marcos, Texas
  8.   8. CSI biology — engaging high school students in hands-on molecular biology and biochemistry using forensics: a collaboration between Nancy Eddy Hopkins at Tulane University and David Swift at Riverdale High School in Jefferson, La.
  9.   9. Understanding the production of carbon dioxide and its potential effects on climate change: a collaboration between Steven Miller at Indiana University and Norman Leonard at Pike High School in Indianapolis
  10. 10. Epidemiological investigation of commonly acquired infections at animal shelters as a method to teach high-school students microbiology and veterinary medicine: a collaboration between Dan Purcell at the University of New Mexico and David Osmond at The ASK Academy in Rio Rancho, N.M.
  11. 11. Genes, mutations and diseases — understanding the origins of genetic disorders through experimental learning: a collaboration between Edwin Li at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Matthew Jurkiewicz at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pa.
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