Secondary Science Education Program

Fall 1996. By Scott Lowry.

In two- or three-week workshops offered this summer at three Partner universities, high school educators learned some of the latest techniques in molecular biology. They also learned ways to get their students involved and thinking like scientists. "While much of our work focuses on curriculum and laboratory improvement in the Partner universities, we also put a lot of effort into pre-college outreach," PMABS Coordinator Nancy Barnes says.

In keeping with this effort, experienced high school biology teachers and newcomers to the field are chosen through a competitive process for PMABS' Secondary Science Educator Program each year.

The foundation of this summer's workshops was firsthand experience with the CityLab curriculum. Each of the workshop instructors--along with Elizabeth City State's Ron Blackmon, who will be leading a future workshop--went to CityLab for a week-long training session.

Among the sessions offered in Boston was a June conference organized by PMABS' Britt Hammond. At this event, as at the other planning sessions, PMABS instructors tried out the curriculum they would present to high school educators in the summer. Don DeRosa and other teachers introduced them to CityLab's inquiry-based teaching method that builds concepts starting from what students already know. PMABS instructors also had the opportunity to play the role of secondary science students. Following the steps of CityLab's learning system, they took part in pre-laboratory activities modeling the scientific concepts used in lab experiments, then actually performed the labs.

Educators chosen for the summer workshops received stipends, continuing education unit credits, and $500 for laboratory supplies at their high schools. PMABS will maintain close relations with workshop participants, paving the way for their students to conduct lab experiments at Partner universities later in the school year. Professor Shelley Barker-Bridgers has already hosted the first field trip, giving students the opportunity to conduct CityLab experiments at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Judging by reactions of the participants in the summer workshops, this new approach to teaching molecular biology in high schools should do well in North Carolina. "The teachers were really excited to have materials they could take home and use in their classes immediately," Barker-Bridgers says. "They were also very enthused about the curriculum's adaptability to different education levels. We all enjoyed seeing how alive biology teaching could really be."


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