Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Zebrafish Makes a Difference in Science Education

science educationZebrafish, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers has the world’s leading zebrafish researchers contributing to the community’s global efforts to promote science education. Scientific papers, many authored by students in grades K-12, as well as articles highlighting innovative curricula and educational tools, a collection of abstracts (including student, parent, and teacher authors), and an informative report from the recent Zebrafish in Education Workshops are collected in a  special issue, which is available for free on the Zebrafish website.

Education Programs

These are several education programs from Zebrafish: (from Making a Difference: Education at the 10th International Conference on Zebrafish Development and Genetics, Lara D. Hutson, Jennifer O. Liang, Michael A. Pickart, Chris Pierret, Henry G. Tomasciewicz, Zebrafish. December 2012, 9(4): 151-154.)

BioEYES, which originated as a tool to teach genetics, was the first outreach program to employ zebrafish broadly in the K–12 classroom and is a model for many programs today…This observation highlights the importance of exposing students to hands-on science earlier, during elementary and middle school. Fortunately, many of the programs discussed throughout these sessions target students in middle school and younger.

Among these, Integrated Science Education Outreach (InSciEd Out), a collaboration between the Mayo Clinic, Winona State University, and the Rochester (MN) Public Schools, is an exciting newer program… During the past 3 summers, InSciEd Out has brought in every single teacher from a selected grade level for a comprehensive science internship. This internship is followed by support for classroom implementation of ideas borne out of the internship.

A similar program, an Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP) between University at Buffalo, Buffalo State University, and the Buffalo Public Schools (NY)…  This program hosts as many as 60 high school and middle school teachers from Buffalo schools every summer to work in research laboratories. In collaboration with laboratory directors and graduate students, these teachers are then tasked with developing curricular innovations for their classrooms based on the materials, tools, and approaches to which they are exposed during the summer. Each of the schools then receives the support of at least one full-time graduate student and sufficient funding to purchase the materials needed to help implement the curricula.

Melanie Fields also described her ongoing program with students at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., using zebrafish in her Neuroscience class. Mrs. Fields’ students have been successful over the years at taking on exceptionally challenging projects, in some cases, following through with presentation at major scientific conferences as well as participation in peer-review and publication.

Zebrafish are also proving useful for collaborative research and discovery based activities across grade levels through the Portals of Discovery Project (PODS), an NSF funded project to create collaborative research pipelines linking primarily high schools, two-, and four-year colleges and universities in Wisconsin.

Mrs. Fields emphasized that the continued support of the research community, particularly scientific societies, should be a high priority to ensure that students continue to be provided with opportunities to present at conferences, a quintessential aspect of the scientific process.

Another demonstrated way to increase access of students to basic science came from students who have taken on the responsibility to mentor younger students.

Some of the most exciting and thought-provoking discussions arose from the STEM Society‘s(which was established by students) presentation, including their use of virtual meetings to get around the problem of busy schedules, the use of social media to keep each other informed, and the prospect of an official charter that could be used by students at other schools who are interested in setting up their own societies. Together, these tools could enable like-minded middle school and high school students throughout the world to get involved, share ideas, and potentially collaborate on science and related endeavors. Out of this discussion came a plan, still in progress, to create a social media site that will provide links and guidance to all of the websites that are building tools for using zebrafish in educational efforts.

STEM Lab: Open Lab for Novel, Student-Led Science Exploration in the Public Schools

Presentations from the 10th International Conference on Zebrafish Development and Genetics, Madison, Wisconsin, June 20–24, 2012, Zebrafish. December 2012, 9(4): 250-255. doi:10.1089/zeb.2012.9995.

Currently, while students might take courses in school that cover STEM subjects, opportunities to apply their knowledge independently outside the classroom are limited by time and resources. STEM Society is a student-led high school organization that seeks to increase opportunities for scientific investigation for K–12 Rochester Public Schools students. In an initial, open-ended survey conducted by STEM Society, 42% of 109 Rochester Public School students from grades 6–12 specifically requested more “hands-on activities” and “applicable activities” to be included with their science education. STEM Society is servicing the students’ requests by offering an open lab, called STEM Lab, in which students can apply their education through workshops and projects. STEM Lab offers different science equipment zones as well as leadership opportunities to Rochester Public Schools’ students as they develop projects with and act as mentors to younger students. STEM Lab promotes student-to-student collaboration, as teamwork is crucial in the science community.

More stories can be found here.

Yes, it takes a village to facilitate authentic learning experience and life-long interest in learning. Educators are nation builders, but supporting and connections from different parties make a difference.

About the Journal

Zebrafish is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published quarterly in print and online. It is the only peer-reviewed journal to focus on the zebrafish and other aquarium fish species as models for the study of vertebrate development, evolution, toxicology, and human disease.


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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