Biotechnology Symposium Inspires Teachers with Innovative Activities

Biotechnology Symposium Inspires Teachers with Innovative Activities

Biotechnology Symposium 2015

A recent symposium gave 100 Chicago science teachers a chance to try their hand at innovative biotechnology activities for the classroom—from using remote labs to building models of proteins. High school and middle school science teachers gained cutting-edge resources and learned skills-based activities for students to use in hands-on biotech labs.

“Bringing Biotech from the Bench to the Classroom” on May 7 featured a variety of biotechnology professional development workshops, with the opportunity for teachers to try out hands-on lab activities for their classrooms.

The symposium also connected teachers with the sponsoring partners: Northwestern’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP), Baxter International Inc., and Lindblom Math and Science Academy. These organizations collaborate on the Biotechnology Center of Excellence as a hub for teacher professional development, curriculum and resources in biotechnology.

"The purpose of the symposium is to get teachers inspired about the way scientific research happens now,” says Emily Ferrin, teacher development specialist for OSEP. “We show them hands-on inquiry-based labs that mirror how research is done.”

Keynote speaker Michael Jewett, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern, highlighted how synthetic biology is opening new frontiers for biomanufacturing that will affect people’s lives in many ways. The current Next Generation Science Standards emphasize that students learn science best by using the methods of scientists like Jewett.

Through most of the day, hands-on workshops introduced teachers to lab activities on a variety of topics. For example, a workshop by Mark Prosise and Chris Wolf of Vernon Hills School used a color change reaction to investigate a charge of athlete doping. In a lab led by Tim Herman and Gina Vogt of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, teachers constructed enzymes with foam pieces and 3-D printing. In another activity led by Leigh Brown of Bio-Rad Laboratories, teachers built battery-powered horizontal gel chambers to separate candy dyes.

A workshop led by Ashley Walter of OSEP showed teachers how to use remote online labs to access high-level equipment to carry out experiments on topics such as the health risks of cell phones and how hospitals protect patients from radiation. Teachers participating in the symposium also left with free supplies for their biotechnology labs.

“We're getting useful tools to implement really innovative hands-on activities for kids,” said biology teacher Sophie Braddock of Jefferson Alternative School in Chicago.

Science teacher Kellie Dean of Stevenson High School was especially pleased to learn about activities she could use in her labs incorporating Next Generation Science Standards. She described the activities as “valuable” and “modern."

At Northwestern, OSEP serves as the bridge between Northwestern faculty and K-12 schools in the effort to educate about cutting-edge scientific research. Since 2006, OSEP has developed best practices for outreach to K-12 schools, especially by engaging students in cutting-edge STEM activities and encouraging participation in STEM fields.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/14/15