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ASBMB wins National Science Foundation grant to enhance K-12 science education

The National Science Foundation has awarded the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology a grant of $70,450 for a program that seeks to enhance the caliber of science education in middle and high schools.

The program, titled Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science (HOPES), includes two forthcoming science-outreach workshops and annual mini-grant opportunities for teachers and college faculty members to work together to develop hands-on science curricula for students.

The workshops, titled Fostering Interactions between Educators from Local Colleges/Universities and K-12 Schools, will be held this April 21 in San Diego and April 20, 2012, in Boston, as part of the society's annual meetings and in conjunction with the Experimental Biology conference, which usually draws more than 13,000 researchers. The grant was issued to ASBMB members Regina Stevens-Truss, a professor at Kalamazoo College, and Peter J. Kennelly, a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Dozens of junior high and highs school science teachers looking for new ways to encourage their students to pursue high-tech studies and careers will participate in the two free, four-hour events, which will pair the teachers with college and university faculty members to forge partnerships that will support their efforts over future years. In addition to hearing about ongoing outreach activities being conducted, participants also will engage 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," said Stevens-Truss of the endeavor. "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."

Workshop participants will be able to apply for small grants to be used for developing and incorporating hands-on activities and projects related to biochemistry and molecular biology into their classrooms. The projects require collaborations between the teachers and college scientists.

A similar mini-grant program was conducted by ASBMB in 2011. For that effort, more than 50 applications from teachers and scientists from across the country were received. One grant winner used the money to purchase blood-pressure and heart-rate monitors so students could collect data and plot their results. Another project involved the isolation, discovery and characterization of bacteriophages in the environment, teaching students about the importance of maintaining lab notebooks.

Stevens-Truss emphasized that the materials needed for such activities rarely are expensive, so even small seed grants 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 forthcoming events will include talks by scientists and educators with experience in developing science, technology, engineering and math outreach partnerships. The speakers also will cover how to use online communication tools to engage the public and how to implement research experiences at the junior high and high school levels.


Contact: Weiyi Zhao
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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