You are here

Stem Cell Research Experience for Pre-College Teachers - 2014

RFA #: 0912220314

Institution PI Amount Title
Columbia University Samuel Silverstein $672,408 Stem Cell Research Experiences for Life Sciences Teachers to Improve Their Students’ Knowledge and Understanding of Stem Cell Science
Cornell University Jonathan Butcher $756,000 Teacher-Scientist Partnerships in Stem Cell Biology
Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute Deanna Thompson $498,420 Translating the Principles and Practice of Stem Cell Research into Middle and High School Classrooms

Stem Cell Research Experiences for Life Sciences Teachers to Improve Their Students’ Knowledge and Understanding of Stem Cell Science

Samuel Silverstein, M.D.
Columbia University

Columbia University’s Summer Research Program for Science Teachers provides paid fellowships so experienced life and physical science teachers can perform hands-on research under the mentorship of Columbia University faculty, four days/week for eight weeks in two consecutive summers. One day/week is devoted to focused, discipline-specific professional development exercises covering topics such as data-driven instruction, science vocabulary, model building, and size and scale. Studies of the program’s impact show that 18% more students of program graduates pass a New York Regents science exam than passed such an exam in the same teacher’s classes in the year prior to his/her entry into the program, and that program graduates are retained in classroom teaching at a 2.7-fold higher rate than comparably experienced non-participating teachers. This proposal uses the methods of this highly successful program to provide middle and high school life science teachers with hands-on training in stem cell science. The need for such training is acute. The field of stem cell biology developed after most of the life science teachers currently in service completed their education. Hence, few of them have had formal training in stem cell science and ethics. The field is advancing so quickly that even recent college graduates need refresher courses to bring them up to speed. Moreover, NYC’s High School Science Scope and Sequence, the key curriculum guide for NYC high school science teachers, references stem cell science but provides no standards for it. Thus, teachers must design their own stem cell science curriculum. Research shows that teachers who are unfamiliar with a topic generally teach it in rigid, unimaginative, and often misleading ways. The program proposed here will combine the human and physical resources of stem cells investigators at Columbia and the New York Stem Cell Foundation to address this critical deficiency in life science teacher training.

Back to Top


Teacher-Scientist Partnerships in Stem Cell Biology

Jonathan Butcher, Ph.D.
Co-PD: Chris Schaffer, Ph.D.
Cornell University

Too often, science is taught as a collection of static facts in a book, rather than as the creative, dynamic process for discovery that professional scientists see it as. This leads to decreased interest in and poorer learning and retention of science topics by students. We propose a NYSTEM Stem Cell Research Experience for Pre-College Teachers program that explicitly aims to change this through three mechanisms: authentic research experiences for teachers, graduate fellows serving as “resident scientists” in classrooms, and the creation of new inquiry-based curricular materials that engage students in scientific discovery. These approaches aim to bring research into the classroom and to help students see the power of science for addressing real-world problems. Our program will partner graduate fellows from Cornell with science teachers in a true teacher-scientist partnership that capitalizes on the strengths of graduate fellows and faculty in stem cell biology and research as well as the curriculum development insights of science teachers. Each summer ten teachers will be selected, targeting poor rural and urban school districts in Upstate New York and relying on the extensive network of teachers and schools that have been developed at Cornell (e.g. through an NSF-funded GK-12 program, in its last year, that is run by one of the Program Directors of this grant). Teachers will spend eight weeks engaged in full-time research, learning, and curriculum development at Cornell.  They will take a specially-created graduate course on stem cell biology and scientific research; participate in research on stem cell biology, mentored by their partnered graduate fellow and faculty member; and work with their graduate fellow and faculty member to create new, inquiry-based curricular materials for their classroom. During the following academic year, the graduate fellow will make multiple visits to the teacher’s classroom, including during the implementation of the new curriculum.

Back to Top


Translating the Principles and Practice of Stem Cell Research into Middle and High School Classrooms

Deanna Thompson, Ph.D.
Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute

The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer currently maintains a state-of-the-art NYSTEM Shared Stem Cell Research Center and provides research experiences in stem cell research, tissue engineering, chemical engineering and biology for area high school students. Much of the research in the CBIS is based on discovery and innovation at the interface of the life sciences, engineering disciplines and the physical sciences and we are committed to outreach programs that facilitate STEM (i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education of pre-college students. The proposed program for pre-college teachers, "Translating the principles and practice of stem cell research into middle and high school classrooms," will thrive in this dynamic environment. The intensive summer course will introduce participants to the basic strategies and thought processes of scientific research and will provide a thorough foundation in key topics including cell biology, stem cell science, cell imaging strategies, responsible conduct of research and stem cell ethical issues. The program will drive the development and maintenance of productive collaborations between faculty mentors and teachers and will introduce the teachers to the principles of scientific inquiry and stem cell research. This will enable them to learn practical research techniques and to be immersed in faculty research groups. This exceptional experience, and the resultant long-term relationships, will facilitate the interactive design and implementation of cutting edge lesson plans and transportable, hands-on classroom teaching modules that will introduce pre-college students to stem cell research. The primary goal of this program will be to inform and excite students and influence their future academic and career choices. Strong efforts will be made to recruit teachers from diverse and disadvantaged communities and to establish a sustainable, evolving program.The performance and achievements of the program will be assessed thoroughly and reported in publication and at professional meetings.

Back to Top