Laboratory academy provides teachers with 'real world' context to teach science

Jul. 23, 2013

California and Hawaii teachers and their students conduct experiments in a research lab during the Lawrence Livermore Teacher Research Academy, which is held in the Livermore Valley Open Campus. The academy gives teachers biotch and computational modeling experience they can use in the classroom. Photo by Jamie Douglas/LLNL. (Download Image)

Laboratory academy provides teachers with 'real world' context to teach science

LIVERMORE, Calif., - California and Hawaii teachers seeking real-world knowledge to teach biotech and computational modeling are attending the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) Teacher Research Academy that began on July 22.

The academy is a summer-long series of professional development workshops for teachers and enrichment programs for students. The programs feature content developed from LLNL research in areas such as computational modeling , biotechnology and technical writing . The biotech program that began on July 22 is offered through a collaboration with Rutgers University. It allows high school teachers to work together with their students to sequence genes from an aquatic plant. Upon successful completion, students will have their work published in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) database.

The academy teachers participate in a continuum of standards-based instruction, enabling them to progress from novice to mastery in exciting scientific disciplines while they experience the application of real-world science in an environment teachers seldom experience.

The academy's goal is for teachers to increase their understanding of science and technology; gain experience using scientific equipment to perform standards-aligned experiments; improve their ability to provide students a context to understand how science is applied; and improve their ability to guide student research.

During the the academy, teachers will get to meet LLNL scientists, visit research laboratories, observe science being performed in a lab, learn technical writing skills to better communicate scientific information, experience the nature of science through direct involvement and use science equipment, processes and practices found in research labs.

The biotech and computational modeling workshops offer a variety of research skills training.

The Biotech Program

Level-I provides an overview of the field of biotechnology with instruction on basic biotechnology tools. These tools include:

  • DNA extraction
  • Gel electrophoresis
  • Restriction digest
  • DNA fingerprinting
  • Bacterial transformation
  • Protein chromatography
  • Intro to bioinformatics

Level-II provides teachers with skills and knowledge to meet the California Content Standards for evolution, genetics and immunology through inquiry, investigation and experimentation. The instruction includes:

  • PCR
  • DNA sequencing
  • Protein analysis using western blotting
  • Bioinformatics

Level-III prepares teachers to work as members of a research team. Participants develop their understanding of:

  • The nature of science
  • Research strategies and methods
  • Technical writing to communicate research findings

Level-IV enables teachers to participate in a mentored research internship to contribute as a member of a research team. Each teacher receives a $4,000 stipend when they complete an eight-week internship. At the completion of the summer research experience, each teacher is expected to create and present a research poster at the LLNL Summer Research Symposium. They are required to create a lesson plan that will extend their research experience into the classroom.

Level-V is not offered this summer.

Level-VI is the LLNL Student Scholars Program (SSP). The program teaches modern molecular genetics to high school students by engaging them in genuine scientific research. SSP is offered in collaboration with the Rutgers University's Waksman Institute.

Computer Modeling

This computer modeling workshop is designed to leverage LLNL's computer simulation expertise to bring hands-on modeling to local high school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers and their students. Participants will learn to use NetLogo, a free, open-source simulation software used by tens of thousands of students, teachers and researchers worldwide, to create computer models that will enhance their STEM curriculum.

Level-I is designed to introduce the concepts behind computer modeling and simulation and real-world applications. Teachers will interact with LLNL scientists and learn about how simulation is used in their work. NetLogo will be introduced as a modeling tool.

Level-II is designed to expand a teacher's knowledge of programming with NetLogo. Teachers will be encouraged to develop computer applications that will enhance their STEM curriculum.

Level-III will not be offered until the summer of 2014.

Level-VI is where teachers will work with a few of their students and LLNL scientists to develop a yearlong capstone project that will be presented to peers, LLNL scientists, and industry leaders at a one-day symposium the following Summer.

Registration for this summer's TRA is over. For information about TRA 2014, contact Richard Farnsworth at (925) 422-5059.