NAU and TGen awarded grant to develop high school science programs

Northern Arizona University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute have been awarded a three-year grant from the Arizona Board of Regents to give Arizona high school teachers the training they need to best educate and advise students who have an interest in the biosciences.

NAU and the research institute, known as TGen, will partner with the Arizona high schools to help teachers educate their students about career opportunities in science and the skills required to excel in Arizona’s biosciences industry.

The program, Biotechnology for Teachers: A Link Between Content and Real-World Application, is an Improving Teacher Quality project that will receive $122,000 for the first year and additional funding for the following two years.

The grant supports collaboration among scientists and educators to help secondary biology teachers update their biology content knowledge and biotechnology laboratory skills.

“The goal is to increase teachers’ content knowledge, awareness of rapid advances in biotechnology, current and future uses of biotechnology, hands-on laboratory skills and pedagogical knowledge that can be transferred to students,” said Catherine Ueckert, an associate professor in biological sciences.

TGen, in collaboration with NAU’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences and the Center for Science Teaching and Learning, will implement the program through the Chino Valley School District, the Tuba City School District and Mesa Public Schools.

NAU, TGen and the schools will develop programs that will give high school teachers exposure and opportunities to learn about science. For example, teachers will participate in professional development opportunities in biotechnology, earn 24 NAU graduate college credits free of charge, and explore ways to prepare their students for the science component of the AIMS test.

A highlight of Biotechnology for Teachers is authentic laboratory experiences facilitated by TGen on the genetic basis of various diseases and disorders.

“TGen is proud of our partnership with NAU and is eager to share our knowledge and expertise in genomics and bioscience with teachers across the state,” said Candice Nulsen, TGen education program manager. “We look forward to helping science educators learn more about how the biosciences may be applied to a real-world setting.”

According to Nena Bloom from NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning, NAU will oversee the coordination and teaching of the program, including a variety of coursework such as methods of biotechnology and genetics/molecular biology.

“The program will also provide professional development in a collaborative setting with TGen to help teachers use biotechnology laboratories efficiently and effectively in their classrooms,” Bloom said.

Teachers also will be presented current topics on the ethical, legal and social implications of genomics and participate in grant-writing workshops.