On a cloudless day in Dangriga, a coastal city in southern Belize, a group of students are hard at work. One wall of their sun-strewn lab is lined with the usual gear of modern genetics: thermocycler, gel electrophoresis system, micropipets, test tubes. Swathed in purple gloves, they measure samples, mix gels and fill pipets with the utmost concentration.
A usual class this is not.
It is part of the Student DNA Barcoding Project, a flexible curriculum that uses student-generated research to teach about biodiversity, ecology and molecular biology. The project, which began in New York City and has now spread to Belize, is detailed in a paper in this week's issue of Science.
"We wanted to create an experience, inquiry-based, and introduce students to molecular biology skills they could potentially use as undergraduates," said Stephen Harris, who authored the paper with Marissa Bellino. Harris is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow, studying evolutionary biology at the City University of New York (CUNY). Bellino is a New York City high school teacher and a student in CUNY's Urban Education PhD program.
The two met and developed the project through NSF's GK-12 program at CUNY. GK-12 paired doctoral candidates with K-12 science teachers. The graduate students were required to teach 15 hours each week in the K-12 classroom, integrating their research with the school's science teaching. More than 300 projects--reaching over 10,000 graduate students and 700,000 K-12 students--were supported through GK-12. The program ended in 2011.
GK-12 offered students a new perspective on studying science and gave doctoral students new skills--such as communication and time management--that come through teaching, said Sonia Ortega, program director of NSF's Division of Graduate Education. The particular partnership between Bellino and Harris was successful because "they really took the opportunity to d
|Contact: Jessica Arriens|
National Science Foundation