UA’s middle school program helps bring science to life

December 1, 2009

By hammersmith

Middle school program helps bring science to life

Alexis Huicochea, Arizona Daily Star, 11.27.2009


During their middle school years, students tend to tune out, especially when it comes to subjects like science and math.

A $750,000 grant awarded to the University of Arizona’s Jr. Biotech program is aimed at keeping students engaged by providing hands-on, rigorous science experiments.

The Jr. Biotech program is being introduced at middle schools in Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff.

Eighth-grade students at Maxwell Middle School got a taste of it Monday when they were able to extract DNA from a kiwi fruit.

Reaction from the students varied from ooohs to ewwws.  “These kind of hands-on experiments really bring science to life, more so than listening to a lecture or reading it from a textbook,” said Jim Fish, TUSD assistant superintendent of middle schools. “This will stay with the kids.”

Nadja Anderson, director of the Biotech project, agreed.  “Studies show that if we can get the kids to see themselves in a science career, they are more likely to study science, obtain a degree in a science field and have a career in science,” she said. “Science opens lots of doors and that’s what we are working to do.”

The UA hopes to offer the Jr. Biotech program statewide but is currently in a pilot phase.

Participating teachers will be offered professional development workshops, and there will be classroom visits for modeling activities.

The grant was awarded by the Helios Education Foundation, which focuses on creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education.

NOTE: Jr Biotech activities are available for any interested individuals to use as part of their curricula. Just visit the website:

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 520-573-4175 or [email protected]