University of Pennsylvania
Over the last ten years, emerging science disciplines, such as stem cells, epigenetics, nanotechnology and biotechnology, have not only revolutionized biology and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines but also have created new industries and a whole new range of career opportunities. Unfortunately, school curricula have not kept up with these rapid changes in science, and most students in the United States are not well prepared or knowledgeable about the sophisticated emerging science that will become increasingly important in the next 10-15 years. Teachers are bound by time, limited resources, and testing requirements to teach the science that is specified in the biology curriculum. Unfortunately, most teachers are not equipped or able to fit emerging science into their hour-long science class.
It is because of these challenges that community engagement will be a central component to this project and we will primarily focus on reaching Philadelphia high school teachers and students, undergraduate, graduate, and medical school students, and faculty from PennCSER. Using an established and successful outreach program called Project BioEYES (described below) as the foundation of our work, we will (1) launch science cafes to inform public school teachers and the university community on the advances and challenges of current research in epigenetics and reproduction, (2) develop a high school curriculum focused on reproduction as well as the epigenetic and environmental influences on reproduction with the input of local teachers, (3) offer a research summer internship to high school students, and (4) co-host an annual science celebration to share with the community the latest developments in the research and educational outreach programs. Notably, as the reproduction and epigenetics curriculum is developed, we will incorporate aspects of the highly regarded Northwestern SCCPIR Outreach program, as they have developed learning modules on basic reproductive physiology and ovarian function.