PHAGES: Phagedigging Helping Acquire Genuine Experiences in Science

  • Project Description

    The project will build sustainability for the successful “Phagedigging” program in Montana. We aim to 1) equip teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to provide high-quality bacteriophage-based research opportunities for students; 2) establish a sustainable pipeline for students into the sciences; and 3) create self-sustaining satellite labs to ensure that students in under-served areas have access to local research opportunities. Teacher leaders who have been involved with phage discovery in their classrooms for 4 or more years will serve as peer mentors to expand the project to their colleagues’ classrooms. 1) A diverse population of K-12 students, teachers, and undergraduate students will participate in research efforts to discover and characterize bacteriophages. The proposed project will integrate K-12 outreach programs to broaden the cadre of participating teachers and provide thousands of K-12 students with genuine research experiences and rigorously measure the effects of the program. We hypothesize that this customized delivery and personalized mentoring will enhance retention of newly participating teachers, increase the diversity of participating students, and expand the geographical reach of the program. 2) In a forefront collaboration between SEPA and INBRE programs, we piloted a program to widen the pipeline of precollege undergraduate researchers. Students who have participated in classroom phage discovery received support for summer research. This pipeline will expand during the PHAGES project. After completing high school research projects, these new college students will transition to Montana INBRE-supported projects at any of eight Montana INBRE participating institutions, deepening their research experiences, and increasing the pipeline of Montana students into biomedical research. 3) With support from PHAGES, each teacher will develop the knowledge, skills, and infrastructure to provide classroom phage discovery in formats most appropriate for his or her school district, including the establishment of satellite labs for independent preparation of materials and delivery of the program. The project results and materials developed will be widely disseminated through publications, internet, and presentations at local, regional, and national science, and science education conferences. As there are >100 universities and college faculty participating in phage discovery in college classrooms, this program may provide a model to expand the reach of the HHMI SEA-PHAGES program to K-12 teachers and students.

  • Abstract

    The PHAGES Program (Phages Helping Acquire Genuine Experiences in Science) will serve K-12 teachers and thousands of students in school districts throughout Montana. This project is a pilot model for developing teacher leaders as trainers who can mentor and assist other teachers within their districts to deliver the classroom phage discovery programming and establish an authentic science research culture within their schools. Participating students and teachers will engage in genuine research—citizen science bacteriophage discovery—and contribute to the scientific community’s collection of known bacteriophages. Developing the capacity for teachers to deliver the program independent of university staff will ensure its sustainability, providing a model to expand phage discovery to K-12 teachers and students throughout the nation. Our ambitious, but achievable, goals are listed below.
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    Program Goals
    1. Equip teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to provide high-quality bacteriophage-based research opportunities for students.
    2. Establish a sustainable pipeline for students into the sciences.
    3. Create self-sustaining satellite labs to ensure that students in underserved areas have access to research opportunities.
    Specific Aims For Teachers
    1) Increase skills and abilities for mentoring other teachers in phage discovery and authentic research experiences.
    2) Increase science content knowledge especially as related to phage discovery research.
    3) Increase pedagogical skills, and discipline-specific research practices within the classroom.
    4) Provide meaningful professional development that engages teachers in a rigorous research question during the summer, specific to isolation and analysis of cold-water bacteria and phage discovery.
    5) Retain teachers in long-term professional development. Compare retention outcomes of programs using nearby teacher-leaders as mentors vs. more distant university mentors.
    6) Create a sustainable system of support for satellite labs including instruction in preparation of phage-discovery lab materials, replenishment of consumables, and maintenance of equipment.
    Specific Aims For Students
    7) Increase content knowledge especially as related to phage discovery research.
    8) Improve awareness of health sciences careers as well as attitudes and dispositions toward the health sciences.
    9) Engage in relevant, meaningful classroom research experiences.
    10) Provide a mechanism to participate in paid summer research experiences.
    11) Engage students in meaningful summer research experiences at Montana INBRE institutions, including MT Tech

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Beyond immediate dissemination, the protocols will be available for teachers online. CFWEP uses a variety of marketing mechanisms including a public radio show, newspaper, organization website, cfwep.org, and the SEPA website [49, 50]. These tools will be utilized to reach a wide audience for recruitment of teachers and dissemination of project findings and curriculum materials.
    Although equipment (micropipettes) are “cool” to the students, the development of a super-low budget, low- tech, version of the protocol with video instruction will be developed and posted on the internet. All teachers will present their findings at our capstone workshop course in the summer of year 5, and a cadre of them will be funded to attend regional and national education and science education meetings to present our project to their peers. PI and Key personnel will also attend conferences, including the annual NIH SciEd conference. Publications in educational journals by faculty and participants will be prepared and submitted in year five of the funding period, although data collection and analysis will be carried on throughout the granting period.
    Immediately upon notification of award, we will establish the PHAGES webpage on the SEPA website as well as on the cfwep.org website. The lessons and materials developed by PHAGES teachers will be made available on the SEPA website, Cfwep.org website, and the Montana OPI Teacher HUB. The OPI reviews all material prior to posting them on the HUB for accessibility.
    The newly discovered phages are added to phagesdb.org and high titer phage stocks will be shipped to the University of Pittsburgh for archival, available to any researchers who request them. Annotations of newly discovered phage genomes by PHAGES pipeline research students will be submitted to GenBank for public dissemination.

Project Audience

The PHAGES Program (Phages Helping Acquire Genuine Experiences in Science) will serve K-12 teachers and thousands of students in school districts throughout Montana.

Subjects Addressed

Participating students and teachers will engage in genuine research—citizen science bacteriophage discovery—and
contribute to the scientific community’s collection of known bacteriophages.
The primary research focus for both teachers and students consists of isolation of previously undiscovered bacteriophages (“phages”). In the classroom visits, students participate in phage discovery from environmental samples they collect using Mycobacterium smegmatis as the host bacterium.
Summer research projects will isolate phages capable of infecting ecologically and commercially important bacterial pathogens (Flavobacterium psychrophilum) isolated from trout hatcheries.