Studying the biosciences in Arizona middle school classrooms
[Source: Helios Education Foundation] — Working in partnership with the University of Arizona (UA), Helios Education Foundation is helping connect middle school science teachers with the resources and training they need to lead hands-on, inquiry-based science activities in the classroom.
The Foundation awarded the university a $750,000 grant for the Jr. BIOTECH program which provides professional development workshops for teachers, classroom visits for modeling hands-on biotechnology activities and extensive materials to help teachers conduct biotechnology experiments independently.
“American teenagers currently rank 25th in math and 21st in science relative to their international peers,” said Dr. Fernando D. Martinez, director of the BIO5 Institute. “Jr. BIOTECH is an investment in building the highly skilled workforce Arizona needs to compete globally and to expand the state’s biotech industry.”
Jr. BIOTECH is being introduced at middle schools in Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff with the ultimate goal of offering the program statewide. The three-year pilot project, operated by the UA’s BIO5 Institute, is an expansion of the highly successful BIOTECH program currently offered at Arizona high schools.
Research shows that engaging middle school students in science-related activities increases the likelihood of them pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM fields.
“Creating opportunities for students to achieve postsecondary education success starts early and it’s tied to supporting programs that help increase curriculum rigor and relevance in middle school classrooms,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “Helios’ $750,000 investment in Jr. BIOTECH will help teachers increase their skills and knowledge in the science, technology, engineering and math areas and in return, help motivate students to explore opportunities in those fields.”
The BIO5 Institute was designed to capitalize on the UA’s history of interdisciplinary collaborative research. This emphasis on collaboration is an integral part of BIO5’s education outreach programs as well. Collaborative partnerships with Jr. BIOTECH include Tucson Unified School District’s Regional Science Center; Northern Arizona University’s Center of Science Teaching and Learning; Arizona Science Teacher Advancement and Research Training (AZ-START); the Crane School District; and UA Cooperative Extension.