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UF precollegiate center keeps teachers up to date on bioscience technologies


“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher.”

— Kathy Savage
Oviedo High bioscience teacher

MOST OF THE TIME they are the teachers.

Not this time.

Dozens of high school teachers from across Florida returned to the classroom as part of an innovative University of Florida program to teach teachers the latest biomedical science and technologies, and to spark interest in bioscience careers among high schoolers.

Kathy Savage participates in a laboratory exercise during the summer program with Houda Darwiche, a post doctoral fellow with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training.

Kathy Savage participates in a laboratory exercise during the summer program with Houda Darwiche, a post doctoral fellow with the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training.

Secondary science teachers Wendy Vidor and Carlene Rogers get first-hand training in UF laboratories that they can pass on to their students

Secondary science teachers Wendy Vidor and Carlene Rogers get first-hand training in UF laboratories. Vidor, a UF doctoral student in horticulture science, teaches agricultural biotechnology and marine science at Matanzas High in Palm Coast; Rogers teaches AP biology and honors anatomy and physiology at Wekiva High in Apopka.

More than 100 high school teachers have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.

More than 100 high school teachers have participated in the program since it was launched in 2010.

The idea: You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you know best when you learn firsthand.

“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher,” said Kathy Savage, a bioscience teacher at Oviedo High School in Oviedo who created a bioscience curriculum working with researchers on UF’s campus.

CPET is the University of Florida’s “umbrella” program and conduit for the transfer of science and technology to public school and community college teachers, students and the public-at-large.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve the teachers’ content knowledge,” said Julie Bokor, assistant director of CPET and a doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction at UF’s College of Education.

Key Elements

Known as Biomedical Explorations: Bench to Bedside, the program includes four key elements.

  • First, the high school teachers spend two weeks during the summer on UF’s campus where they conduct experiments and learn all manner of lab techniques and tools, such as applying technology to make copies of DNA, a method of diagnosing diseases, and identifying bacteria and viruses.
  • Next, they develop lesson plans and incorporate these into their teaching during the school year.
  • At year-end, they report their findings and disseminate the lessons so other teachers can use and help refine them.
  • Finally, selected research fellows return to campus in subsequent summers and scatter across UF’s campus to work closely with professors in labs to more fully develop curricula.

To sum it up: UF professors transfer research and techniques to secondary teachers and these teachers translate this knowledge into lessons that students can best understand.

“It’s a professional learning cycle,” said Kent Crippen, an associate professor of STEM education in COE’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Applying Lessons Learned

Importantly, participating teachers aren’t set adrift after the initial summer camp: They receive continued support from CPET staff and professors.

A good example is Savage, who had taught chemistry for 17 years when she was tapped to create a bioscience program at her school. She was a fish out of water.

“The equipment and procedures and lab techniques weren’t around when I was in school,” Savage said. “It’s a little intimidating doing those kinds of experiments yourself when you have to teach your students.”

After participating in the inaugural cohort in 2010, she has since returned to campus for three weeks every summer to work closely with UF professors and post-doctorate scholars in UF labs. They have helped her design lesson plans, taught her to use science equipment that had been gathering dust at her school, corresponded to answer her questions via email and even visited her classroom to help conduct experiments.

“You never feel afraid to try something new and jump in because you know someone has your back,” she said.

Another example: Orlando Edgewater High biology teacher Jessica Mahoney and fellow CPET alumna Jennifer Broo worked with UF Associate Professor of Entomology Daniel Hahn to create lessons on the interrelated concepts of climate change and evolution.

Students conducted experiments on live fruit flies provided by the university’s Department of Entomology to determine which strains were most vulnerable to climate change based on their recovery from a chill-induced coma.

In previous summers, these teachers teamed to develop two other curricula: one involving the cell cycle and cancer and another exploring the evolution of horses.

All told, 105 high school teachers who have participated in the program are now bringing their new skills to their own classrooms, including 22 in the 2015-2016 school year as part of a second phase of the program.

Second Phase

The UF Bench to Bedside program recently received a two-year $522,698 follow-up grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand the dissemination of the new high school science curricula.

Crippen, a co-principal investigator of this phase-two project, is helping to widely circulate the lessons by training teachers to use a powerful open-source portal funded by National Science Foundation. This online repository is part of the NSF Digital Library and allows instructors to submit, download, collaborate, and manage the copyright of lesson plans and other teaching resources they have created for the program.

CPET, which is housed in the Office of the Provost, has a long history of close collaboration with the College of Education. Education Associate Dean Tom Dana initiated a course offering for the Bench to Bedside program so teachers completing the work receive three hours of graduate credit. In another program, CPET is supporting Rose Pringle, associate professor of science education, and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School Director Lynda Hayes on a $5 million National Science Foundation grant known as U-FUTuRES (University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science) to train middle school science teacher-leaders to transform science teaching and learning. CPET Director Mary Jo Koroly is co-principal investigator on the project to facilitate science enrichment activities on campus.

Sharing lessons – and the lessons learned – is a key element of all this professional development work.

“Ultimately, what we want is for our teachers to get regional, state and even national recognition so they can develop professionally,” Bokor said. “By moving to the next level they get to share this great research.”

    SourceJulie Bokor, CPET, 352-392-2310
    SourceKent Crippen, College of Education associate professor of STEM Education, 352-273-4222
    WriterCharles Boisseau, UF COE News & Communications, 352-392-4449

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College honors five ‘outstanding’ students for 2014-15

Congratulations to UF ProTeach undergraduate students Shelby Boger and Madison Buchert, and graduate education students Julie Boker, Natalie King and Elizabeth Bettini, who will receive Outstanding Student Awards April 24 at the 2015 College of Education Recognition Dinner at the UF Hilton in Gainesville.

Undergraduate recipients were selected for their superior academic achievement and service to the college, university and community . . .

Madison Buchert

Madison Buchert

Outstanding Undergraduate Student
Unified Elementary ProTeach
Madison Buchert

Well organized and owner of a 3.72 GPA, Madison Buchert is on track to receive her bachelor’s degree in education in May and her master’s in education in 2016. Membership in Kappa Delta Pi, an international education honor society, has doubled since Madison became president one year ago. She also is an active member of the Florida Education Association, and served on the UF Student Advisory Council. Somehow, Madison found time to work as a substitute teacher and serve as a volunteer student mentor for the College of Education. She will intern at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School next year.

Shelby Boger

Shelby Boger

Outstanding Undergraduate Student
Unified Early Childhood Education
Shelby Boger
Shelby Boger is a well-organized, detail-oriented senior who carries a 3.96 grade point average in the Unified Early Childhood program. She has been on either the Dean’s List or the President’s List all but one semester at UF, and expects to receive her bachelor’s degree in special education in May. Shelby has worked in various capacities — including substitute teaching — at seven public and private schools and child learning centers. She also supervised peer groups charged with security during athletic and special events at UF’s O’Connell Center, and is a former lifeguard and camp counselor with the YMCA.

Outstanding Graduate Student
Elizabeth Bettini
This award recognizes a graduate student who demonstrates outstanding scholarship and strong evidence of publications, professional presentations and professional development activities in support of the College of Education’s mission; also, service and leadership to the college, university and community . . . Elizabeth Bettini has bachelor of science and arts degrees (’04) from the University of California, San Diego, and a master’s in special education (’09) from the University of Arizona. She expects to earn her Ph.D. in special education this year. “Liz” draws the highest of praise from UF faculty members who see her as a valuable asset not only because of her quality research, but for her grant writing ability as well. She has presented at no fewer than 23 national conferences, and has eight peer-reviewed publications to her credit, along with four book chapters and three manuscripts that are under peer review.

Julie Bokor

Julie Bokor

Outstanding Graduate Student
Professional Practice
Julie Bokor
The Professional Practice Award recognizes a graduate student who demonstrates excellence in their research, publications, presentations, and professional activities in support of the College of Education’s mission. These students also provide valuable service and leadership to the University and community . . . After receiving bachelor’s degrees in zoology (’95) and microbiology and cell science (’98), Julie remained at UF, where she earned her master’s in science education before entering the COE’s doctoral program in curriculum and instruction. She holds a 3.95 grade point average and expects to receive her Ph.D. in 2016. Julie has been assistant director at the Center for Pre-collegiate Education and Training since 2010, where she also has served as an instructor and lecturer. Her research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and practitioner-oriented materials, and she has made several presentations at the national and international levels.

Natalie King

Natalie King

Outstanding Graduate Student
Natalie King

This award honors a graduate student who demonstrates outstanding scholarship, a commitment to service, and leadership for the college, university and community . . . Natalie King is a doctoral candidate who earned a bachelor’s degree in applied physiology and kinesiology (’09) and a master’s in special education (’11) from UF. She expects to receive her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction in May of 2016. Natalie is a Graduate School Fellow and the science education project associate for the University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science (U-FUTuRES) project. She has presented at numerous conferences locally and internationally, and has been published in several journals and a book. Natalie also has won UF’s Phyllis M. Meek Spirit of Susan B. Anthony and Graduate Student Mentoring awards.