NIH SCIENCE EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP AWARDS

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Life Sciences Learning Center: Strengthening Connections Between Scientists and Classroom Learning - Phase I & II

Grant Website

http://lifesciences.envmed.rochester.edu/

Audience

High school students and teachers.

Subjects Addressed

Biology.

Project Description

This project will bring together scientists and science educators in developing, evaluating, and disseminating four high school biology curriculum modules that focus on NIH-funded biomedical research projects that fall within the expertise of scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in Rochester, N.Y. This project will be led by faculty and staff of the Life Sciences Learning Center (LSLC), a science education center at the URMC. The topics of the four curriculum modules will be:

  1. Use of neural stem cells as gene therapy vectors
  2. Use of genomic technologies to identify pandemic-specific genes of Vibrio cholerae
  3. Neurobiology of recovery of visual functions after brain damage
  4. Physiological and molecular effects of ultrafine air particulates on human disease

The curriculum modules will be composed of the following parts:

  1. Interactive research article: Based on an original journal article, and adapted for a high school audience with engaging graphics and animations to illustrate cellular and molecular processes, research experiments and content
  2. Laboratory activities: Hands-on laboratory activities that involve students in developing and interpreting data that is relevant to understanding the research, and will illustrate the use of current technologies
  3. Extension and assessment activities: Examples of extension activities and assessments, including rubrics, test questions, and alternative assessment suggestions
  4. Teacher resource materials: Background materials that provide a review of the scientific topic, (review articles, Internet sites) and sample lesson plans

Two slightly different versions of each curriculum module will be developed:

  • "LSLC" version - Lab activities will be taught at the LSLC by graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows
  • "Classroom-ready" version - Will be taught by teachers in schools. Disseminated to teachers via professional development workshops and through the Internet

Resources for Sharing

Curriculum materials will be posted online and also made available on a CD, for use off-line. The website will also contain faculty scientist, graduate student/postdoc biographies and current developments in each of the areas of research.

Dissemination Strategies

  1. Local dissemination plans: The "LSLC" version of the curriculum modules will be developed so that the lab activities can be presented to high school classes at the LSLC by URMC graduate students and postdocs.
  2. Statewide dissemination plans: Approximately 65 master biology teachers (mentors) from the New York State Biology-Chemistry Professional Development Mentor Network will be trained to use the curriculum modules ("classroom-ready" version). The mentors will then train teachers in their own regions of New York state.
  3. National dissemination plans: The "classroom-ready"  curriculum modules will be available to teachers nationwide via the Internet. We will also host teacher workshops at national science teacher conferences.

Abstract

The Life Sciences Learning Center (LSLC), a science education laboratory at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), provides secondary school students and teachers with the opportunity to learn about and experience hands-on scientific inquiry. The long-term goals of the LSLC are to provide resources to K-12 teachers, and to create opportunities for interaction with University of Rochester biomedical research science faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.

The LSLC will utilize funding from a SEPA Phase I & Phase II grant to create and disseminate comprehensive curricula that directly reflect biomedical research performed at the URMC. This project will bring together scientists and science educators in developing and disseminating four curriculum modules focused on NIH-funded biomedical research that is being undertaken by URMC scientists. These modules will provide learning and teaching strategies to engage student interest, support learning of biological concepts, and foster an awareness and understanding of biomedical research. These curriculum modules will be standards-based and will integrate classroom activities, laboratory activities, and computer activities. The topics of the four modules will be:

  1. Use of neural stem cells as gene therapy vectors
  2. Genomic technologies to identify pandemic-specific genes of Vibrio cholerae
  3. Therapies and molecular changes in the brain that result in the recovery of visual functions after brain damage
  4. Physiological and molecular effects of ultrafine air particulates

Classroom-ready versions of each module will be disseminated throughout New York state via a partnership with the New York State Biology-Chemistry Professional Development Mentor Network. Nationwide dissemination of the curricula will be facilitated through workshops, a website, and laboratory supply kits that will be loaned to teachers. Local dissemination of the curricula will be facilitated by URMC graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who will be trained to lead LSLC laboratory sessions.

The LSLC will implement a comprehensive mixed-methods evaluation consisting of process and outcomes measures, employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Furthermore, the project will assess the implementation of the curricula and the impact of the curricula on student content knowledge.

Evaluation(s)

Evaluation Goals:

  1. Provide evidence that the curriculum modules are "usable" in the high school classroom setting and at the LSLC
  2. Provide preliminary evidence that use of the curriculum modules increases student content knowledge and awareness of topics in biomedical research
  3. Provide evidence that the curricula are "transportable" and that curriculum modules can be disseminated widely (by mentors, teachers and scientist-instructors)
  4. Provide evidence of impact of curricula on student content knowledge and awareness of topics in biomedical research

Evaluation Design: Development phase (Years 2-3): We will collect data from "pilot teachers" and LSLC staff to assess the usability of the curriculum modules in classrooms and at the LSLC (i.e. how is the curricula implemented, are the students engaged, etc.). We will also collect data to assess the impact of the curricula on student content knowledge. Dissemination phase (Years 4-5): We will collect data to assess the use of the curricula by a much larger group of teachers (the statewide biology mentors and then the statewide teachers who are trained at the mentor-led workshops) and their students. We will also collect data from graduate students and postdoc scientist-instructors who lead LSLC sessions.

Instruments to be Used:

  1. Curriculum Module Evaluation Survey
  2. LSLC Teacher Satisfaction Survey
  3. Teacher interviews
  4. Teacher Workshop Evaluation Survey
  5. Student pre-post tests
  6. Scientist-instructor interviews
  7. LSLC educator written feedback