High-Tech Biology Kits for the Next Generation of Scientists
The BioBits Project was started by a group of synthetic biology researchers at Northwestern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, who wanted to help students learn biology by doing biology. Their aim was to enable students to perform a range of simple, hands-on biological experiments without the need for specialized lab equipment and at a fraction of the cost of current standard experimental designs. To achieve their goal, the researchers have developed educational biology kits with a range of molecular experiments that can be performed using a system of freeze-dried, cell-free reactions, each coupled to a signal that students can easily detect with their sense of sight, smell, or touch. The first kit they developed, BioBits Bright, was designed to engage the sense of sight. Expanding on BioBits Bright, BioBits Explorer includes experiments that engage the senses of smell and touch. One experiment, for example, uses a sensor that glows fluorescent in the presence of banana or kiwi DNA. Another experiment creates a compound that smells like bananas. A third experiment results in a squishy hydrogel, which students can touch and manipulate. BioBits lab kits and accompanying curricula were developed to meet standards for K–12 STEM education. The research team plans to refine the kits’ design and create an open-source online database where teachers and students can share their results, as well as their ideas for modifying the kits and exploring different biological questions. An online video presents interviews of the project’s founders, experimental demos, and more.
The Smithsonian Science for the Classroom program is setting the standard for 3D learning and 3D assessment. Developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center, this new integrated STEM curriculum is designed to engage students in phenomenon-based learning through coherent storylines and connect them firsthand to the world around them.
ASM Teacher Materials Camp is a weeklong, idea-generating workshop introducing teachers to methods that will make core math and science principles more enticing and relevant to their middle school and high school students. The materials topics are motivators in any engineering, technology, or science course as students complete projects of personal worth to them.
An initiative of Microsoft Philanthropies, TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) helps high schools throughout the United States and in British Columbia, Canada, build and grow sustainable computer science programs. TEALS pairs trained computer science professionals from across the technology industry with classroom teachers to team-teach computer science.