The Teachers FIRST project (From Interesting Research to Scientific Teaching) aims to provide high school teachers with the background and tools to go beyond the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology (DNA ->RNA ->Protein) in their teaching, and to engage their students in meaningful discussions of genomic science and its implications for personalized health care. In the first phase of this project, teachers will be introduced to a series of molecular stories of current research that illustrate how recent advances in technology are driving the development of personalized genomic medicine. A broad range of innovative, student-centered instructional materials will be created in this project, including (i) cellular landscapes that transition students'thinking from the cellular to the molecular world, (ii) a central dogma construction kit, and (iii) physical models and computer-based (Jmol) explorations of specific proteins. Teachers will then receive explicit training in the use of these materials to connect the central elements of each molecular story of current research to the basic concepts of chemistry and biology that are taught at the high school level. In the second phase of this project, teachers will be introduced to the principles of scientific teaching - and challenged to apply the same experimental rigor to their classrooms that researchers apply in their laboratories. Teams of teachers will be assisted in the development of individualized research plans in which the impact of implementing the project's instructional materials in their classrooms will be studied. Beginning in a summer workshop and continuing into the implementation of these shared research plans in their classrooms, teachers will be encouraged to become active participants in a professional community of educators - committed to documenting the impact of their classroom innovations on student learning and to sharing the results of that education research with others. In the final phase of this project, the molecular stories and related instructional materials will e disseminated to a national audience of high school students and their teachers though a Protein Modeling event in the Science Olympiad competition. More than 9,000 students in 48 states will be exposed to stories of personalized genomic medicine as they construct physical models of proteins that play key roles in molecular stories.
The Teachers FIRST project aims to provide high school biology teachers with the knowledge and tools to go beyond the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology (DNA to RNA to protein) in their teaching, and to engage their students in meaningful discussions of genomic medicine and its implications for personalized health care. The project will also empower teachers to become education researchers who study the impact of their classroom innovations on student learning.