Bioinformatics and genomics are transforming medicine and basic research at a rapid pace, challenging K-12 students and teachers to keep up. There have been several calls to introduce these concepts earlier in the curriculum. However, it is not just modern science that is failing to reach our students. Our students are not succeeding in basic science, particularly students who are traditionally underrepresented in scientific fields. Teachers who do not have comprehensive or up-to-date scientific background contribute to this problem, as does a steep decline in student science interest during middle school. The result is a scientific workforce that does not mirror U.S. diversity and a population that does not appreciate the importance, relevance, or excitement of science. This project reinforces basic science concepts, sparks interest and prepares students for personal, academic and professional encounters with bioinformatics and genomics (e.g. tumor profiling, personalized medicine and/or science careers). The project provides a partnership model involving teachers, scientists and pedagogy experts to develop bioinformatics-enhanced instructional units. Teachers will work collaboratively with scientists and pedagogy experts to design bioinformatics-based units, and then implement the units in their classrooms. As the project matures, the teachers and project team will tailor the bioinformatics-based units to the local community, focusing on cultural and local relevancy. A mixed methods approach will be used to analyze and evaluate outcomes. Teacher and student learning will be analyzed quantitatively, and qualitative methods will be used to assess the impact on teacher and student interest and engagement.
Specific Aims 1. Provide teacher professional development through intensive, collaborative workshops. 2. Field test and evaluate the innovative bioinformatics-enhanced activities in classrooms with a high proportion of URM students. 3. Disseminate tools and inform scientific, science education, and outreach communities about the impact of this approach. This will contribute to diversifying the STEM pipeline and achieving a scientifically literate populace by producing engaging instructional materials that increase science achievement in a population with high representation of Hispanics.
Bioinformatics and genomics are fields that are informing medical advances, including personalized medicine. The nation needs both (i) an informed citizenship, to better understand new medical advances and to make health decisions based on diagnostic tests and treatments driven by bioinformatics-based research and (ii) a diverse scientific workforce to realize the full potential of biomedical research, including bioinformatics and genomics research. By partnering with New Mexico elementary and middle school teachers to design and implement bioinformatics-based instructional materials in their classrooms, we can engage the interest of a diverse group of students in science, contributing to developing a scientifically literate populace, and attracting a diverse group of students into scientific careers.