Biotechnology Symposium Inspires Teachers

Biotechnology Symposium Inspires Teachers

Baxter SymposiumThe Baxter Symposium on May 19 brought more than 100 educators from across the Chicago area to Northwestern to learn to advance life science education through biotechnology. The symposium is presented by the Office of STEM Education Partnerships at SESP, along with Baxter International Inc. and the Lindblom Math and Science Academy.

This professional development event for middle and high school teachers combines cutting-edge science from Northwestern and Baxter with hands-on, classroom-ready activities. Teachers advance their knowledge and teaching practices and get lab equipment to take back to their schools.  

“Advancing Life Sciences through Biotechnology” started with a keynote talk by Melissa Simon, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology at Northwestern, whose primary research interest is eliminating health disparities among low-income, medically underserved women. In her keynote talk, as she discussed her difficult pathway to medical school, she emphasized the importance of persistence and how educators can support students from any background to persevere in developing career readiness and professional advancement in STEM and health-related fields.

Throughout most of the day, hands-on workshops introduced teachers to lab activities on a variety of topics. Featured sessions included Polymer Potions; What’s in Our Water?; Rockets, Reactions and Ratios; and Solve a Crime Using DNA.

Amy Pratt, acting director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP), says the goal for the day is simple: "to provide teachers with knowledge and activities and the equipment and materials they need to immediately use in their science classrooms.”

Teachers had positive reactions to the workshops, which offered engaging activities for their classrooms aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). For example, The Beauty of Chemical Reactions demonstrated two experiments along with discussion questions for how to get students involved in critical thinking about the experiment design.

Melanie Zenisek, the science coordinator at Arlington Heights School District who facilitated The Incredible Edible Soybean, said, “The teachers were excited about the hands-on activities — less talking and more doing — and in how to adapt the activities for their kids,” including different levels and types of classrooms. Her workshop presented scaffolded activities related to soybeans, including hands-on activities teaching about surface tension and surfactants. 

The Office of STEM Education Partnerships at Northwestern connects K-12 students to the STEM resources of Northwestern University and beyond. OSEP works with Northwestern faculty and students and a network of industry, community, government and foundation partners to develop hands-on, inquiry-based STEM curricula and programs; provide in-service teacher professional development; and build capacity for STEM teaching and learning. Emily Ferrin organized the 2016 Baxter Symposium for OSEP.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/24/16