The Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor, Maine recently received a Science Education Partnership Award of close to $1.3 million dollars from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support the Teaching the Genome Generation program, (TtGG) for the next five years. TtGG launched in 2014 to “provide hands-on training for high school science teachers, helping them to bring greater understanding of the basics of genomics to their students.”
This comes as welcome news to North Yarmouth Academy (NYA) and NYA science teacher Barbara Farrell who worked through the experiments to refine TtGG. Farrell spent the first four months of 2015 on sabbatical at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX). Her knowledge and expertise in a high school atmosphere gave JAX scientists a greater perspective of how to better modify the program to public and private school teachers. So much so, Farrell serves on behalf of the program as a peer-to-peer mentor for high school teachers across Maine who may have any questions about implementation practices in their schools. Director of Jackson Laboratory Courses and Conferences, Charles Wray, Ph.D., spoke to Farrell’s involvement, “Barbara was essential to refining the TtGG program. Her experience as a teacher and her understanding of high-school curricula made it possible to adapt and refine TtGG genomics and genetics content for use in high school classrooms and labs. Barbara’s work has been extremely important for TtGG and will enable successful program implementation across a large number of schools in Maine.”
At NYA, Farrell has seamlessly infused her professional development and connection with The Jackson Laboratories into the science department. In January of this year, she implemented a genomics class available to juniors and seniors. A regular part of the class included a trip to The Jackson Lab’s Bar Harbor facility for hands-on work. The funding from the NIH grant “provides lab equipment, reagents, and supplies to enable teachers and their students to conduct genetic experiments, collect and analyze real data, and discuss the ethical complexities of personal access to genetic information.”
NYA senior Kiersten Marr of Falmouth explained, “The trip the genomics class took to the lab this year was really fun and informative. It allowed us to see real research being done in the field we were studying and let us do our year end lab in an actual research environment, which was neat!” Marr found her passion for genomics in Mrs. Farrell’s class and was selected into The Jackson Laboratory’s Summer Student Program this year.
“I am excited as a biology and genomics teacher to have my students experience cutting-edge scientific technology and real world research practices,” said Farrell. “Having this opportunity is another valuable addition to our growing STEM program.”
To date, TtGG has trained 47 teachers and 1,200 students in all New England states. With the new grant, TtGG is expected to reach 3,000 students each year between 2016 and 2021.