The Greater New Orleans area is the setting for an unprecedented experiment in education reform. This effort is characterized by an influx of reform-minded administrators and teachers, enthusiastic adoption of the public charter school concept, increased accountability and parental options, and intensification of community involvement. This environment provides a unique and attractive opportunity for testing new ideas in curriculum development and delivery. The National Institutes of Health has developed a series of educational modules based on scientific discoveries from NIH-sponsored research. These units are designed to supplement existing elementary and secondary life science curricula at both the state and local levels and are consistent with National Science Education Standards. The supplements developed by teachers, scientists and curriculum experts, and field-tested nationally by teachers, "promote active and collaborative learning and are inquiry- based to help students develop problem-solving strategies and critical thinking." The NIH modules do not include hands-on laboratory exercises and no provisions are made for training teachers in the underlying concepts and technologies of molecular and cellular biology and molecular genetics. This application proposes a comprehensive program - BEST Science! - to provide Bioscience Enrichment for Students and Teachers. BEST Science! is a partnership between Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and several local school districts The long-term objective of this partnership is to advance an interest in, and understanding of, biomedical research and health sciences by New Orleans area high school students, particularly underrepresented minorities. The ultimate goal is to stimulate further education and vocation in these areas. The general mechanism proposed to achieve this goal is to produce and implement summer professional development workshops for biology teachers and then provide the necessary resources for them to deploy the curriculum in their classrooms during the academic year. The core of the workshop curriculum will be select NIH modules supplemented with complementary laboratory exercises utilizing technologies such as DNA transformation, PCR amplification and gel electrophoresis. The laboratory units will be created using existing modules, developed by SEPA-funded programs such as CityLab and Regional Biotech, as templates. Research scientists and graduate students from Ochsner and LSUHSC will participate in the workshops. Academic year support will include provision of reagent kits, equipment loans and mentoring by program faculty, graduate students, and Lead Teachers who have experience with the curriculum. Participating teachers, who must commit for one year to all aspects of the program, will have the option of carrying out the laboratory exercises in their classroom or in a dedicated student laboratory on the Ochsner campus. By providing the necessary training and resources, BEST Science! will help incorporate the NIH modules into the local curricula and fulfill the original intent of the NIH program.
The healthcare and biomedical research fields, much like the greater U.S. economy, is increasingly based on science and technology and requires a science-literate workforce. Many public school districts, particularly those in urban areas with a relatively large population of minorities and low-income families, do not have the resources to provide a comprehensive education especially in areas like life science where learning is heavily dependent on hands-on laboratory explorations. Ochsner Clinic Foundation and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, through the BEST Science! program, will provide the training and resources necessary for high school teachers in the greater New Orleans to add hands-on, inquiry-based educational modules into their existing curriculum - with the objective of stimulating students'interest in careers in biomedical research and the healthcare fields.