Building Classroom Capacity for Biotechnology

Building Classroom Capacity for Biotechnology

(This article first published in Georgia BioEd Institute’s December 2016 Newsletter)

This fall, the Georgia BioEd Institute has reflected on its mission to strengthen Georgia’s life science workforce pipeline and we’ve created new mechanisms to understand how best to support teachers to integrate biotechnology and laboratory science in the classroom.

Classroom Needs Survey

A recent national report of life science workforce needs shows that employers in this industry are looking for hard skills in chemistry, research, and experimentation (CSBI, 2016). Georgia ranks 14th in the U.S. for bio-related occupational employment, with a 10% projected growth in bioscience jobs in the next 10 years (Georgia Power, 2016). Yet, these frightening statistics compel us to take action:

  • 43% of Georgia high school students score proficient or higher on the Georgia Milestones Biology test (Georgia Department of Education, 2016).
  • Georgia ranks lower than 25 other states on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress for 8th grade science (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2015).
  • Only 54% of 8th grade science teachers in Georgia said they have the resources that they need (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2015).
  • Students leave the pipeline at every stage: graduation rates are 72% for high school, 54% for 4-year degrees, 23% for 2-year degrees. Only 21% of postsecondary degrees
    obtained are in STEM fields.
  • Students from underrepresented groups, low-income
    families, and women lag behind in academic achievement
    and number of STEM degrees/certificates.
  • You can read more about these and other data at
    the Change the Equation website: http://vitalsigns.
    changetheequation.org/state/Georgia/overview.

We see our role at Georgia BioEd Institute as building schools’ capacity to integrate laboratory science in the classroom by building teacher’s skills and confidence, and supplying them with the equipment they need. As part of our efforts, we’d like to learn more about what teachers need in order to more effectively prepare students for postsecondary education and careers in the life sciences. You can help us by sharing your views on the biggest challenges in your classroom and how you see Georgia BioEd Institute helping you to best prepare your students to be future STEM leaders. Please help us by completing this 5-minute survey to provide your candid feedback. We value your input!

Marc Pedersen and Casey Bethel share best practices in biotechnology classroom activities with fellow educators at the Georgia STEM Forum, October 2016.

Teacher Advisory Council

Our newly-formed Teacher Advisory Council will help the Institute to better meet teacher and student needs, including revision of teacher professional development plans and alignment of workshops with Equipment Depot resources. Council members include Casey Bethel (Douglas County), the 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year; Marc Pedersen (Paulding County), the 2016 BioGENEius Mentor of the Year and 2016 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Mathematics & Science Teaching; and Janet Standeven (Forsyth County), the Georgia Bio Biotechnology Teacher of the Year.

Together, the Council presented a workshop at the Georgia STEM Forum entitled “Simple and Easy Biotech for STEM Classrooms” where we shared some great low-cost ways to do biotech. For many instructors, the last time they picked up a pipette was in college. We’re hoping to break down the barriers that prevent teachers from doing lab activities and build teachers’ confidence in using modern biotechnology equipment. Look for more from Georgia BioEd Institute along these lines in the future. We will offer several workshops next year, including a Biotech Share-A-Thon at the GSTA conference in February, and a presentation at Healthcare Science Technology Education Association conference at end of January.

Clayton County educators practice their biotech skills with Dr. Ebony Remus, Atlanta Technical College.

This year, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Clayton County teachers to increase their skills, knowledge and confidence in incorporating biotechnology in their biology, AP biology, and biotechnology courses. Recently, we visited Dr. Ebony Remus at Atlanta Technical College where we tested food products for GMO content using restriction enzyme digest, electrophoresis and PCR. Dr. Remus created an amazing experience for teachers of varying backgrounds. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to working with Dr. Remus again.

SOURCES

Coalition for State Bioscience Institutes (2016). 2016 Life Science Workforce Trends Report. Available from http://www.csbioinstitutes.org/workforce-development Georgia

Department of Education (2016). Georgia Milestones 2015-2016 State Results [PPT]. Available from http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/ communications/Documents/Georgia%20Milestones%202015-2016%20State%20 Results.pptx

Georgia Power (2016). Bioscience Industry Report. Available from http://selectgeorgia. com/publications/Bioscience_Industry_Report.pdf

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2016). The Nation’s Report Card: 2015 Science State Snapshot Report (Georgia) [PDF]. Available from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/ publications/stt2015/pdf/2016157GA8.pdf