This project will develop and disseminate a collection of innovative high-school laboratory exercises that will stimulate hands-on, inquiry-based learning of fundamental biological concepts, and foster critical thinking among students regarding the role of basic research in society. The laboratory units will feature Tetrahymena thermophila, a safe, easily grown single-cell organism that is ideal for demonstrating many of the basic principles of biology without engendering any of the conflicting reactions often invoked by the use of multicellular organisms in the classroom. Teaching modules will be made available through the Tetrahymena Stock Center, an NCRR-funded resource center at Cornell University that distributes genetic strains of T. thermophila to the community at-large. Along with hands-on (wet lab) exercises, a cross platform module suitable for high school social studies and civics courses (as well as biology courses), will be developed to address the relationship of Basic Science, Biotechnology, and Society. This unit will stress the fundamental role of basic research, and stimulate vigorous discourse and debate on the interplay of scientific research, biotechnology, public policy, science funding, public oversight of scientific research, and other scientific and societal issues using Tetrahymena as a focal point. This organism's journey from a little known sideline to a well-understood biological model with direct relevance to human health offers a perfect backdrop to explore such issues. The Stock Center will partner with the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers and with regional teachers in New York's southern tier to prepare, test, and evaluate of these modules. To encourage communication among teachers, students, and scientists at geographically separate locations, and to allow posting of data obtained in the field research module, a dedicated website will be established. Teacher training and support in the development and implementation of the modules will be provided through summer workshops at Cornell University. Opportunities for further interaction among project leaders and teachers will be provided during two Saturday training and evaluation sessions, one in late fall and one in late spring during the last fours years of the project. An external evaluator will be involved at all steps in the development, testing, evaluation, and dissemination of the modules. Since many of the school districts surrounding Cornell are in rural areas, these modules will be designed to be as self-contained as possible, and when necessary, will be supported by an equipment lending library established in the first two years of the project. We intend these modules to be as accessible as possible to all schools with limited facilities in order to stimulate interest in science and scientific careers among rural and other underrepresented youth. Finally, we intend to disseminate the refined and completed modules on a national level, by providing information at various regional meetings, posting on educational websites, and making module kits available over the web.

Public Health Relevance

(provided by applicant): The Tetrahymena Stock Center in partnership with the Cornell University Institute for Biology Teachers and local high schools in New York's southern tier will develop and disseminate a collection of innovative laboratory modules targeted primarily towards schools serving rural and other underrepresented youth. These laboratory exercises are intended to enhance K12 biology education and raise awareness of the role of basic research in today's society.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
Education Projects (R25)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-SEPA-6 (01))
Program Officer
Beck, Lawrence A
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Cornell University
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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Smith, Joshua J; Wiley, Emily A; Cassidy-Hanley, Donna M (2012) Tetrahymena in the classroom. Methods Cell Biol 109:411-30