The 2009 BioME Summer Institute in June marked the beginning of a year-long partnership between 10 University of Arizona graduate fellows from all areas of the life sciences and 14 Tucson K-12 teachers, who will work together in the teachers' classrooms this fall.
The graduate fellows will improve their ability to communicate about science, while the teachers will gain valuable classroom partners – working scientists who can help them to develop science curricula while also serving as role models for their K-12 students.
"Our week-long summer institute provided an opportunity for graduate fellows and their teacher partners to get to know each other and to plan for the coming school year," said BIO5 Director of Education Outreach Stacey Forsyth. "Activities throughout the week exposed them to new ideas, teaching strategies and science education resources that they can bring back to their classrooms."
For example, during a day-long Mount Lemmon field trip, the teachers learned new field research techniques designed to engage K-12 students in science. On the field trip, the graduate fellows shared techniques they use to measure bird populations and food resources, sample insect populations, and track large mammals.
Together the teachers and graduate fellows took part in hands-on activities focused on how to teach biology in the context of evolution.
They learned about the science education resources available on campus, attended lectures from UA researchers on evolution and field ecology and visited the graduate fellows' labs to learn more about the variety of life science research-everything from biomedical research to ecological field research-taking place at the UA.
"We've found that the Summer Institute plays a critical role in building successful teaching partnerships and helping them to run smoothly throughout the school year," Forsyth said.
The five-year BioME (Biodiversity from Molecules to Ecosystems) program is funded by a $3 million National Science Foundation grant. It is a partnership between BIO5 and the UA department of ecology and evolutionary biology. Judie Bronstein, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Forsyth are investigators on the project.