Integrating Biotechnology and Ecology into Science Education in Rural Schools in Oregon
Oregon State University
Through our partnership with rural schools, graduate and undergraduate fellows collaborate with teachers to develop and implement inquiry-based science activities focused on biotechnology and ecology. A unique aspect is utilization of rural landscapes for classroom activities. The program has impacted 1958 students including Hispanic and special needs students. With additional funding from Toshiba America Foundation, a Discovering Partners in Nature program was implemented in 4 districts. Besides the benefits of enhanced science vocabulary and excitement about science, a ''Draw a Scientist Test'' indicated a change in K-12 student perceptions about scientists in terms of gender and dress (i.e., lab coats). Teachers indicated an increase in teaching skills after observing Fellows and participating in the lessons. Benefits for Fellows include increased self confidence, enhanced communication skills, development of skills related to working in teams, and a fresh perspective about their own research. To sustain elements of the GK-12 program, a new 2 credit course in Science Education and Outreach is being offered which involves OSU students in the implementation of hands-on inquiry-based lessons in rural classrooms. Our students report that the course has added value to their degrees, changed their confidence level in their knowledge as a scientist, and enhanced their awareness about how the world perceives the field of science.