Aug 02, 2018

American Laboratory Trading Donates $10k in Laboratory Equipment to Help Provide Educators with the Tools Needed to Accelerate Student Learning

American Laboratory Trading Donates $10K in Laboratory Equipment to Help Provide Educators with the Tools Needed to Accelerate Student Learning 

 

Donation celebrated at the 2017 CLSA Pantheon Awards will provide over 10,000 students in the Bay Area (San Francisco) access to microcentrifuges for their” PCR Equipment Kits.

 

American Laboratory Trading (ALT) in partnership with the California Life Science Association (CLSA) is proud to support the work of innovative nonprofit organizations. The CLSA Pantheon 2017 Educator of the Year honor was awarded to the Gladstone Institutes, who received a $15k donation in lab equipment from American Laboratory Trading. Gladstone Institutes generously bestowed the donation to the Bay Area Bioscience Education Community (BABEC). This equipment will help teachers across the Bay Area expand their science education programs by providing them with the necessary tools to teach and inspire the next generation of scientists. 

 

The mission of BABEC is crucial to the growth of the life science industry, helping teachers to prepare students for bioscience careers. Our team recently asked Executive Director of BABEC, Kristen Wolslegel, to share more about how BABEC has been changing the game for science educators in the Bay Area for over 21 years.

 

Interviewee: Kristen Wolslegel, MPA

Executive Director

Bay Area Bioscience Education Community

 

Who is BABEC and how does it serve the life science community?

The Bay Area Bioscience Education Community (BABEC) was founded as a 501(c)3 non-profit in 1996 to address the fiscal and logistical needs of biotechnology education programs in San Francisco Bay Area schools. With the increasing visibility and market presence of the biotechnology industry in the 1990s, several forward-thinking and creative high school science teachers came together with the goal of bringing new technology into the classroom and preparing a workforce for this burgeoning industry.  

 

In the 21 years since its incorporation, BABEC has demonstrated our commitment to being responsive to educators across a broad geographic region. Our programs have reached over 400,000 Bay Area students and thousands of high school science teachers.

 

Too many teachers lack the expertise, support, resources and networking opportunities needed today to adequately educate students in the sciences, and thereby prepare the next generation of scientists. BABEC addresses this problem by helping teachers develop and thrive as successful biotechnology educators.  Having well-trained science teachers serves a critical community need because our economy requires a well-prepared local workforce with the necessary technical knowledge and experience. The San Francisco Bay Area life science industry is a strong local economic driver and the creator of well-paying regional jobs, but biotechnology companies often struggle to find qualified employees. According to studies by the California Life Sciences Association, California’s biotech companies believe the state’s emerging workforce is inadequately prepared in math and science, skill sets necessary for a career in the industry. Without adequate resources directed toward bioscience education, the biotech industry will suffer. 

 

What skills and experience do students obtain from BABEC’s program?

BABEC works with high school and community college biology teachers to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and resources to teach everyday molecular biology techniques to their students.  We focus on improving student learning by enhancing the effectiveness of science teachers. We provide them with the knowledge and skills to bring current topics such as genetic engineering and DNA analysis to their students. We offer industry-relevant training through work-based learning and research-grade skills generation.

 

BABEC's founding philosophy is that you can reach a greater number of students by working through their teachers.  Students are the ultimate beneficiaries of BABEC's work.  Their experiences – both good and bad -  with our curriculum constantly inform our work, as we endeavor to provide useful, relevant and effective learning products.

What are some notable achievements made by students or classes in the program?

Over the last 22 years, BABEC has helped hundreds of high school biology teachers launch biotechnology elective classes – something that was entirely new at the time.  These classes are 1-2 years long and provide students with the opportunity to learn biology in a new way:  they are less textbook focused and more hands-on.  

 

This approach provides educational opportunities for a wider variety of learners than the traditional biology class does. Students who may not have succeeded in the general biology classroom often thrive in the interactive and hands-on environment of a biotechnology class.  

 

For example, last summer we were invited by the San Francisco Unified School District to teach a unit to their summer Credit Recovery biology students. These students did not perform well in biology and had to repeat the class over the summer.  BABEC provided a two-week, intensive “biotechnology summer camp” experience to these students, and they responded amazingly well.  After learning all the basic skills such as micro-pipetting and gel electrophoresis, they extracted their own personal DNA and sequenced their mitochondria.  From this, they learned about their “deep ancestry”, plotted the migration of their branch of the Human Family Tree out of Africa, and learned that humans all share common origins and are more similar than we are different.  These lessons were particularly relevant for these students, who were largely from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds because they build the skills and confidence to thrive. 

 

How do equipment donations impact the students?

In addition to teachers needing to be better prepared to teach biotech classes, schools and classrooms need to be better prepared as well.  Only a handful of the region’s public high schools provide hands-on bioscience laboratory activities, and even fewer offer a biotechnology elective course. Too many public high schools simply do not have the necessary resources to offer this type of technical training.   

 

One of the key reasons is that the biotechnology equipment and supplies needed to furnish a laboratory are expensive. BABEC offers an affordable option for under-resourced schools to provide students with hands-on biotechnology lessons. We help offer industry-relevant training through work-based learning, and we provide the equipment, supplies and teacher training and support that are desperately needed. 

 

Because our programs are hands-on, we have the unique ability to efficiently utilize tangible donations.  The key to BABEC’s success lies in the fact that the portable laboratories embody a built-in scalable efficiency.  They are mobile and move from classroom to classroom, and from school to school, permitting substantive hands-on science experiences for students without the high costs of a permanent lab -- something out of reach for all but a few schools in the region.  In addition, instead of sitting permanently in one classroom all year, getting used only a few times, our educational science materials are used almost every week of the school year.  In terms of access and equity in science education, this model allows BABEC to serve schools in economically-distressed school districts, many with high percentages of limited English speakers.   BABEC laboratory materials reach an exponentially greater number of students through this mechanism.  We serve as an intermediary between schools, thus leveraging the educational potential of our science education materials and equipment and helping us achieve our goal of expanding access to hands-on science learning.

 

What plans do you have with the equipment from American Laboratory Trading?

We are using the donated microcentrifuges in our “PCR Equipment Kits”, which are currently being used at several schools throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.  These kits will serve about 10,000 students during the course of the school year.

 

 

To Learn More About the Bay Area Bioscience Education Community, please visit

 

 

Bay Area Bioscience Education Community

 

To Learn More About the Gladstone Institutes, please visit:

 

Gladstone Institutes