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Teachers get help brushing up on science

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Saturday, January 16, 2010 - 8:30 am

With rapidly changing technologies and scientific advancements each year, teachers, expected to be nurturing the bright minds of tomorrow, need to be up-to-date on new information.

Schools call the practice “professional development.” It gives teachers frequent opportunities to update their skills through in-house training, or like a new biology seminar, more out-of-town trips.

Molecular Medicine in Action for Teachers is a new program offered through the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. It included an East Allen County Schools teacher in October.

The one-day seminar is offered every fall and gives science teachers from around the state a chance to expand their knowledge in molecular medicine during a hands-on research experience.

“We just wanted them to have a fun day of science,” said Mark Kelley, the program director.

Originally, the program was just offered to students – who still take part – but Kelley felt it would be just as beneficial for the teachers who can then take the information back to a larger audience.

The first seminar was offered in October and will be offered again next fall. At the seminar, teachers learned about advances in cancer research, genes and DNA – and then how to present that information to their students.

“I think it was pretty successful,” Kelley said of the 36 teachers who participated.

Veteran 36-year teacher Mark Mettert was one of the few selected for the program. He teaches biology and anatomy, among other subjects, at New Haven High School.

Mettert, who had previously recommended students for the program, saw October's seminar as an opportunity to expand his own skills.

“I participated in this program because I make every attempt I can at staying current in my subject content area, especially in the rapidly changing field of genetics and molecular biology,” he said.

Kelley said the student portion has been running for about 10 years.

The program – targeted at juniors and seniors – allows the students to experience life as a scientist for two days in the areas of molecular biology, cytogenetics (genetics as it refers to cells), and cancer therapy.

“This is a fantastic program. I strongly recommend nominating students with interest in science careers to attend this,” Mettert said. “This program was a life-changing experience for many of my students.”

Kelley said the program receives more than 100 applications each year, but only one student from each school can attend – 50 in all.

The application deadline for students this year has already past, but Kelley said they are always looking for interested individuals. Applications are available online.

The student program runs in the spring and the teacher program in the fall. Both are free.