Dr. Michael Sanderson
IGERT Program in Genomics
University of Arizona
Biosciences West. 328
1041 E. Lowell Street
Tucson, AZ 85721-0088
During Spring or Summer of the second year, each IGERT student participates in a collaborative project with a local high school teacher, using a research-based genomics topic to introduce high school students to this exciting field in the context of a high school biology or computer science class or in summer workshops. The focal school for our activities is Tucson High Magnet School (THMS), one of the largest high schools in Tucson. This school borders the University and is the Technology, Science and Mathematics Magnet School for the largest local school district (Tucson Unified School District).
Each IGERT trainee is expected to contribute to a single outreach unit, a requirement that will not substantially impede their research progress. IGERT students who participate in outreach in Spring work individually or as a team of two or three with a sponsoring high school biology teacher and one or more high school classes to develop and present a two or three week-long unit on biotechnology, genomics, and/or evolution. In Arizona high school biology classes, the topics of molecular biology and evolution are typically taught in spring. Each unit involves hands-on, wet-lab or computer experiences in genomics research. Facilities at THMS permit incorporation of molecular wet lab activities. Some units focus on teaching about genomics using public databases. Most trainees have direct teaching contact with high school students, but some may work on developing teaching units to make them accessible to any interested teacher. The IGERT outreach program will interface with the existing university web-based system (www.biology.arizona.edu) for distributing teaching materials for K-12 biology. Trainees have the alternative of helping to develop and teach a summer workshop, again collaborating with a high school teacher.
In view of the increased emphasis on teaching and outreach in academic positions, this outreach experience directly benefits IGERT students. Improved science teaching in high schools is particularly critical, and incorporating research-based activities into science teaching is one of the most pressing needs. In developing course modules for the high school level, IGERT students draw on their recent research experiences in the courses of their first two years. For example, a student team working on a research project in a course could develop some aspect as an activity appropriate for teaching about genomics at the high school level. This experience provides IGERT fellows with experience in research-based teaching to a diverse set of students and acquaints high school students and teachers with the excitement of research and scientific discovery.