Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology

BRINGING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO THE BENCH

April 18th, 2005


Students (left to right) Camille Reuter and Katie Blackadar studying C. elegans. The experiment determines whether the worms move towards particular odors (exhibit chemotaxis).
Approximately 600 high school students participated in the annual MCB-HHMI Outreach Spring Biology Laboratory Workshops, which ran from Tuesday, March 1 through Wednesday, April 12, 2005.  Jointly sponsored by the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the six-week program gave high school students hands-on experience in the Science Center’s teaching laboratories. 

Classes from 40 public, private and parochial schools throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine, investigated the following topics:

  • Polymerase Chain Reactions and Gel Electrophoresis
  • Animal Behavior:  Fly Learning and Memory
  • The Heart and the ECG
  • Investigating Neuroscience Using C. elegans

Prior to each class’s arrival at Harvard, Outreach staff, and graduate and post-doctoral teaching fellows coordinated with classroom teachers to ensure the workshops were at an appropriate level for the students. Though some classes came from as far away as Bethel, Maine, the spring program also supports on-going relationships between MCB-HHMI Outreach and teachers in neighboring communities.  Teachers from Somerville High School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin (CRLS) returned with their students for the third year. 

In addition to the four laboratory offerings listed above, MCB-HHMI Outreach worked closely with area teachers to develop additional topics.  Students from several classes at Cambridge Rindge and Latin tested a pilot laboratory on marine embryology.  This laboratory was developed in collaboration with a CRLS teacher associated with the Massachusetts Marine Educators.

The spring program represents just one component of the MCB-HHMI Outreach year-round program for biology students and teachers.  This July, 18 teachers will visit MCB for two weeks to attend lectures on neurobiology by Harvard faculty; then using their new understanding of neurobiology, will design multimedia teaching tools for their classrooms.  In the fall, MCB-HHMI Outreach will invite another 70 teachers to participate in a similar series of lectures and laboratories/activities on neurobiology. Teachers from the summer program will present their multimedia classroom materials to the larger fall audience.  Dinners follow each lecture and laboratory to provide an opportunity for further discussion and collaboration between participants.

Additionally, MCB-HHMI Outreach has partnered with the Harvard "ExperiMentors," an undergraduate group that volunteers in the Cambridge public elementary schools.  A joint effort between the two groups enabled second and third grade students to participate in a morning of laboratory exercises on human digestion and circulation in the Science Center in January. 

For further information on MCB-HHMI Outreach, visit http://outreach.mcb.harvard.edu, or email Tara Bennett, the Program Manager, at tbennett@fas.harvard.edu. You can also read a related article in the Harvard Gazette.

 

Comments from Spring Outreach Participants:

 "The South Hadley High School students …benefited in so many ways from this experience.  They learned about PCR techniques, they had a chance to use micropipettes and run a gel.  They met people from Harvard and saw that you are real people!  This is a university in our own state that they can now feel familiar with.  Thank you for including us."

-- Sylvia Cooley, South Hadley High School Biology teacher

"It was such an advantage for us to be able to use the equipment that is used at the college level, and it gave us an idea about what to look for in years to come in studying in related fields. Personally, with my interest in becoming a nurse, your wise words and insight into college in the science fields was very interesting and encouraging.  Thank you for everything."

-- Rachel Rosario, South Hadley High School student

"Before participating in this lab I had some reservations about
continuing with my interest in Biology next year in college. After hearing
 the interesting things you had to say, especially about the heart, I
have decided to continue. … thank you so much for sharing your laboratory and knowledge with our class, we loved it!"

-- Lillian Smith, South Hadley High School student