Reflecting on the Future: Hands-On, Person-to-Person Educational Experiences

iStock_000053412884LargeThe start of a new year is always a good time for reflection.  For those of us at the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute), this means looking at the programs we offer and considering ones we might like to develop.

In this process, we find ourselves continuing to feel certain that the hands-on, lab-based opportunities we provide add something meaningful to the education of those we serve, from middle school students and their teachers to graduate students to scientists in academia and industry.  The value of learning concepts and techniques in a well-equipped setting, working with teachers and volunteers who are dedicated scientists, is significant.

In addition to gaining an understanding of the basics of molecular biology so key to biotechnology, these programs are also designed to support the development of critical thinking skills so necessary to scientific literacy.

We think this is also the case for our scientific symposia (Wisconsin Stem Cell Symposium; Wisconsin Human Proteomics Symposium) and our International Forum on Consciousness.  These events enable attendees to interact with speakers and other participants in person – in an environment designed to encourage the exchange of information, ideas and perspectives.

Of course, internet-based technologies contribute in many important ways to the success of these activities. Internet-based technologies also enable in-depth exploration of the knowledge and skills our programs intend to share, both pre- and post-experiences at the BTC Institute.

That said, as we reflect, we’d simply like to re-emphasize the importance of face-to-face engagement and the rich shared questioning and learning it facilitates.  In these days of tight budgets and schedules, it is not easy to pull this off.  We are grateful for the relationships we have with our many partners (for a complete list please see: www.btci.org/ ), without whom these challenges could not be met.

As we look to the future, we would especially like to recognize those who make it possible for middle and high school students and their teachers to participate in our Biotechnology Field Trips program, which served 3000+ students throughout Wisconsin and Illinois last year (www.btci.org/ ).  Kudos to:

  • Dedicated teachers who figure out ways to incorporate current techniques into their teaching, navigating the complex world of securing funding and scheduling for field trips;
  • Administrators and school board members who support them;
  • Parents and others who step up to provide additional funding and/or chaperones when needed;
  • Promega employees who assist us with large groups and also provide tours of the company’s production facilities in our building for high school and college groups.

BTCI students in lab

So, here’s to continued support for: encouraging curiosity; offering lab activities that model methods for asking and answering questions, enabling students’ visions of their futures.  All the best for 2015 from the BTC Institute staff!

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Karin Borgh, PhD is the Executive Director of the BTC Institute.

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