Discovery Lab: A Partnership for Science Education

  • Abstract

    Houston-area school children rarely have the opportunity to experience biomedical science in a discovery oriented hands-on manner. Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and the Museum of Health and Medical Science (MHMS) possess extraordinary resources for educational outreach that can provide innovative and unique inquiry-based science education for public school students and their teachers. To establish such innovative opportunities, BCM, the Houston Annenberg Challenge, and the MHMS propose the development of a Phase I educational outreach program targeting K–12 students and teachers in the greater Houston area.

    The long-term goals of this program are threefold. First, to provide Houston-area students with innovative opportunities to explore molecular biology and heredity in a hands-on, inquiry-based manner. Second, to provide Houston-area teachers with new opportunities for training, continuing education, and state-of-the-art curriculum development. And third, to train BCM graduate students to be role models career mentors and educators for the rest of their scientific careers. The program called “Discovery Lab” will partner BCM graduate students with Houston Independent School District students and their teachers.

    The activities of Discovery Lab will be designed for implementation in even the most basic classrooms making the opportunities of Discovery Lab accessible to all Houston-area students and teachers. Discovery Lab will use commercially available field-tested educational kits that explore heredity DNA and molecular biology. The Discovery Lab curriculum will also include printed and web-based materials, fully illustrated student manuals, pre- and post-visit tests, evaluation forms, and instructional support. Further, teachers will be trained in the Discovery Lab curriculum units during summer workshops so that they can incorporate the modules into their regular teaching activities.

    We will expand our successful pilot Annenberg Summer Science Internship a six-week program that put teacher/student pairs in BCM research laboratories during Summer 2002. The success of Discovery Lab activities will be evaluated through pre- and post-visit tests and evaluations to be completed by both students and teachers, and the results used to improve and reorganize the activities of Discovery Lab as needed to optimize its objectives. Through the activities of Discovery Lab we will enhance the understanding of science for Houston-area school children by providing laboratory-style experiences and expert instruction that would otherwise be unavailable. Teachers will have the opportunity to interact with working scientists, learn new skills, and acquire a new curriculum they can permanently adopt in their classrooms. Importantly, Discovery Lab will train graduate students to be lifelong mentors, encouraging them to reproduce Discovery Lab in their future academic positions. A major outcome of this project will be the creation of a model program for science education that can be implemented nationwide.