Engaging students in authentic research experiences and equipping teachers with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools essential to lead research within the classroom is critical for increasing the pipeline leading to biomedical fields. The Bringing Research into the Classroom (BRIC) project directly aligns with the NCRR goals of development of a diversified pipeline for basic, behavioral and clinical research fields, and to educate the community on health-related issues by utilizing an intensive teacher professional development program focusing on discipline-specific research in bacteriophage discovery. By equipping teachers to facilitate intensive research experiences within their classrooms, the BRIC project aims to build a legacy of teacher leaders who will provide authentic science opportunities for their students. The BRIC project is built upon seven years of collaborative efforts between the Montana Tech Phagedigging Program and Cfwep.Org (formerly known as the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program). Both programs have proven track records in science education outreach efforts. Combined the two programs have reached over 20,000 students and 300 teachers. These two highly successful programs have designed the BRIC project, a new program to provide intensive teacher professional development combined with in-class visits by scientists. The overall project goal is to equip teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to provide high quality health science research opportunities for students. The project's specific aims for teachers are to: 1) Increase teacher science content knowledge especially as related to phage discovery research;2) Increase teacher pedagogical skills, and discipline-specific research practices within the classroom;and 3). Provide meaningful, engaging professional development for teachers that engages teachers in a rigorous research question during the summer. For students, the project aims to: 1) Increase student content knowledge especially as related to phage discovery research;2) Improve student awareness of health sciences careers as well as their attitudes and dispositions toward the health sciences;and 3) Engage students in relevant, meaningful classroom research experiences. The BRIC program leaders will provide phage discovery research curriculum within all participating teacher's classrooms. Scientists from Montana Tech, accompanied by undergraduate students, lead three days of bacteriophage discovery projects, also known as "phagedigging". Teachers engage in intensive summer training workshops that include discipline-specific research content and pedagogical approaches for the classroom. The project leaders have developed an experimental design in order to examine the effect of professional development combined with classroom visits as compared to classroom visits alone for both teachers and students.
In the BRIC target area within Montana, 41% of families meet criteria for low-income status. This figure was 50% higher for the state as a whole, and 47% higher than for the nation. Sixty-six percent of adults in the target area do not have a bachelor's degree, and 11% do not have a high school diploma. This rate is 2% higher than for Montana, and 10% higher than that of the nation. These data suggest that students in the target area are not likely to attend college. American Indians account for approximately 6.3% of the population in Montana, which is significantly higher than the national average of 0.9%. The target area schools include American Indian student populations representative of the state figure. The BRIC project provides positive scientist role models and near-peer mentoring along with development of teachers'ability to deliver rigorous science curriculum. Last but not least, every bacteriophage discovered by the students and their teachers contributes to what is known about these organisms. Each newly discovered bacteriophage has the potential to aid in further research studies affecting human health.