September 2012

HOPES seed-grants program to enhance K–12 education in STEM: an update

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science program, or HOPES, held its second annual workshop in April in San Diego during the society’s annual meeting. The workshop, titled “Fostering Partnerships Between Colleges, Universities and K–12 Schools,” was a three-hour session that brought together research scientists and teachers to talk about ways hands-on activities can be incorporated into science lessons to enhance student experiences.


Seven proposals from the 2012 competition were funded:

From genes to proteins: bringing hands-on molecular biology activities into middle-school classrooms to promote STEM education, a collaboration between Robert Dutnall at the University of San Diego and Valentyna Banner, Aja Booker and Emily Vizzo from San Diego Global Vision Academy

Nurturing interest in biomedical science education among elementary students, a collaboration between Carmel McNicholas–Bevensee and J. Michael Wyss at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Wayne Richardson at Deer Valley Elementary School

Promoting in-depth science exploration through guided individual projects, a collaboration between Maarten Chrispeels and Tamara Bhandari of the University of California, San Diego, and Camille Fowler from Garfield High School

One health: disease diagnostics, surveillance and emerging infectious diseases, a collaboration between Brinda Rana of the University of California, San Diego; Karen Ferran, Esmeralda Iniguez–Stevens and Sarah Marikos of the California Office of Public Health; Nikos Gurfield of the Department of Environmental Health Vector Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory; and Kate O’Connor of San Diego High School

Botano tech incorporated comparative plan genomics module, a collaboration between Cheryl Wlodarksi, Michael Goodbody and James Morris of Roosevelt Middle School; Laurie Smith of the University of California, San Diego; and Shirley Demer of Grant School

Research collaboration between Rodriguez High School and University of the Pacific, a collaboration between Kevin Scully and Sophia Straun of Rodriguez High School and Kirkwood Land of the University of the Pacific

Stimulating fifth-grade science students’ interests through engaging hands-on, inquiry-based lessons, a collaboration between Rachell Booth, Marilyn Banta and Corina Maeder of Texas State University–San Marcos and Addie Woodard, Susan Brown and Cindy Matias of Hernandez Elementary School

This program, first launched during the society’s 2011 annual meeting in Washington, D.C., is supported in part by the National Science Foundation and provides $2,000 grants to seed new partnerships to support the development of science, technology, engineering and math projects among workshop attendees. Ten proposals were funded in 2011. (Read about them at

A requirement of the HOPES grants is that awardees submit end-of-year reports that outline outcomes of the projects. All of the grantees reported successes and challenges. The most common challenge reported was insufficient time to execute the plans thoroughly — a challenge we all experience. Several projects involved multiclassroom or multischool activities, and some of those projects’ organizers had difficulty getting K–12 teachers’ buy-in and implementation of the projects in classrooms. Regardless, all the awardees reported successes and have plans to continue their partnerships and projects. In fact, several outlined plans for expansion of the projects.

As part of the reports, the awardees were sent a questionnaire that probed at the following:

  1. (1) success of the project,
  2. (2) number of students affected and their demographics,
  3. (3) students’ knowledge before and after the project, and
  4. (4) dissemination and long-term plans.

The results reported by the first round of grant awardees and the newly granted projects are exciting and encouraging. This program was initiated to promote partnerships between educators in the STEM fields who are seeking ways to enhance their teaching by incorporating hands-on classroom activities. A long-term goal of the HOPES program committee is that partnerships blossom all over the country and that K–12 students learn the joy of science through hands-on classroom activities.


Photo of Regina Stevens-TrussRegina Stevens–Truss ( is an associate professor of chemistry at Kalamazoo College and a member of the ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee and Educational and Professional Development Committee.


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