Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Isobel Utschig, a science teacher at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, WI. We bring this to you in celebration of #TeacherAppreciationWeek2020
About 10 years ago, I attended a field trip at the Biopharmaceutical Technology Center Institute with my AP Biology classmates. I felt apprehensive upon seeing the micropipettes and other “foreign” lab supplies on the benchtops. We learned that we would be using enzymes to cut DNA and visualize those different fragments on a gel. I marveled at the glowing streaks and found it incredible that I was looking (albeit indirectly) at real pieces of DNA. As we moved into the genetic transformation activity I was even more intrigued. We opened the tubes of bacteria and added some luciferase DNA, which would allow the bacteria to create a light-producing protein. We then “heat shocked” the bacteria to coax them to take up these plasmids from their environment looking at the bacteria later, their glow revealed our success. The day flew by and at the end I marveled at all that we had done!
Three years later I joined a research lab at Marquette University. Upon seeing the lab benches full of unfamiliar equipment, the same wave of apprehension came over me. My PI introduced me to the first task: digest a plasmid with restriction enzymes and verify the cut with gel electrophoresis. Memories of the high school field trip flooded my mind as I gripped a micropipette and attempted to nimbly load the wells. While I greatly improved in my skills over the course of the summer, the familiarity I had from my trip to the BTC Institute put me at ease from the beginning.
Significant resources are required to deliver high-quality science experiences for students and their teachers. In addition to generous amounts of staff time, for both preparation and program delivery, often there are costly lab supplies. Access to a well-equipped laboratory designed to facilitate educational experiences is also important.
Of course, hands-on experiences are related to learning: for example, becoming scientifically literate, meeting science standards, preparing for AP tests. That said, many of us involved in science outreach activities will tell you that perhaps the most significant justification for these investments is that you never know when one of the students will experience that ‘Aha!’ moment which proves to be life-changing for them.
Over the years, we have heard many testimonials from students, teachers, school-to-career coordinators and other school district personnel, mentors and parents that speak to this experience. There just seems to be something about getting into the lab and engaging directly in “doing science” that stays with some participants as they head back to school, continue with their studies and on to their careers. Continue reading ““Aha! Moments” in Science Education”
Today’s blog is jointly written by guest blogger Peter Kritsch, Biotechnology and Biology Teacher at Oregon High School and contributor Barbara Bielec. K-12 Program Director at the BTC Institute.
The BTC Institute has offered two graduate-level courses for high school teachers for many summers. Biotechnology: The Basics and Biotechnology: Beyond the Basics have become very popular and are also drawing the interest of middle school teachers. So, this June we piloted a new 3-day course designed specifically for them. Representing different schools and districts, eight teachers learned how to extract DNA from strawberries, pour and run agarose gels, identify a taste gene, and received information on lots of resources to use with their students.
Through the BTC Institute’s Biotechnology Teacher Academy, these courses are offered at no cost and $300-$500 stipends are available. A main Academy goal is to provide high quality professional development opportunities that prioritize content that participants can smoothly incorporate into their classrooms. Our commitment to stipends is generously supported by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC), Promega Corporation, Madison College and the BTC Institute. (All three courses are offered for graduate credits from Edgewood College, and Viterbo University also offers credits for the two geared to high school teachers.)
The importance of this approach is affirmed by Sherry Jacobsen (Kromrey Middle School in Middleton, WI):
This [course] is such a gift to teachers! Many times we aren’t treated as professionals so it was nice to be treated as a professional without a high personal cost. I love how the course is so practical. Many courses are only in theory and no application. I can take so many useful ideas with me.
Biotechnology is making its way into the middle school classroom. With access to the BTC Institute’s Equipment Loan Program, teachers can check out micropipettes, gel boxes & power supplies, an ultraviolet light box and other equipment for up to two weeks. Course participant Amy Reimer (Core Knowledge Middle School in Verona, WI), has already taken advantage of this program and noted that it was “great to review procedures” through the course and plans to borrow equipment again this coming year. Continue reading “A Successful Launch for Biotechnology: The Basics for Middle School Teachers”