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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 5:21 EDT

Mayo Researchers, Rochester Educators, Students To Present At Science Conference

February 17, 2011

Zebrafish curriculum receives national attention

America’s largest general science conference will be the setting next week for seven presentations on how zebrafish changed the classroom in Rochester. Those presenting at the conference in Washington, D.C., include researchers from Mayo Clinic and Winona State University, educators from the Rochester school system, and several students.

“We started out trying to improve how science was taught. That led to adding curriculum beyond science, and resulted in improvement in testing and grade outcomes, and now to the experience of reporting all of it at AAAS,” says Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic biochemist and senior author on the collaboration. AAAS is the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization that sponsors the annual international meeting and also publishes the journal Science.

The collaboration, which calls itself InSciEd Out, will give seven poster presentations on Sunday, Feb. 20, at the conference. The presentations highlight different perspectives on the overall curriculum that introduces genetics research and zebrafish into the classroom, with students acting as investigators. The approach and model was carried over and applied in other subjects as well, from social studies to art. Over the first two years of the project, science fair participation for grades six to eight increased eightfold, and science test scores for grade five rose by 14 percent and grade eight by 33 percent. Also, a majority of those eighth graders achieved a rating of “exceeds expectations” in the Minnesota science standards.

In addition to the national science conference, the team will meet with the leaders of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, where a science teacher is also using zebrafish in her classroom. Previously, principal James Sonju of Rochester Lincoln Choice School was named Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Principal of the Year in Minnesota and was honored for his role in the project by Gov. Mark Dayton in his recent State of the State address.

The goal was to demonstrate that cooperation between educators and scientists can result in dramatic changes in science proficiency in American public schools.

The original curriculum research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic Center for Translational Science Activities, Rochester Public Schools, a Qwest education grant, Winona State University, Mayo Clinic, Aquatic Habitats, and a variety of individual, parent, local business, church, and student donations.

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