Bellino and Harris first took the Barcoding Project to Belize in 2012, partnering with The Petters Research Institute, a nonprofit that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the country.
That first year, they did ecological sampling, collecting and classifying insects. Barcoding was added in 2012, thanks to a traveling DNA lab--two suitcase-sized boxes, now stored in Harris's apartment.
Dangriga is thousands of miles from New York City. Yet "similarities between the students were incredible," Harris said. Both cities are urban environments, where young kids don't have much connection to the natural landscape. This project can help change that, Harris said, by teaching students the importance of protecting biological diversity.
Next year, the Belize component--officially called the Biodiversity Center of Belize--will include a conservation camp at the country's zoo. Students will use DNA barcoding to determine the sex of some of the zoo's scarlet macaws, and zoo staff will be trained in lab techniques.
Now that the Student DNA Barcoding Project has been successfully used outside New York, Bellino and Harris hope it will spread to other U.S. schools. The curriculum is available on the GK-12 website, and is attached to the Science article.
"Science is about sharing, and so is education," Bellino said. "Anyone who wants to take it and model it and run with it would be amazing."
She measures success of the project in small victories: a student entering a science competition for the first time, the anticipation and the nerves before they nail their presentation.
"When they are doing the research, they can't see what's happening necessarily," she said. It's not until those moments when students step back and reflect that they realize "I've done so much and this is mine and I know this better than anyone else in t
|Contact: Jessica Arriens|
National Science Foundation