Applying plant science research to the classroom using research-based inquiry labs
The overall objective of my project was to promote scientific research in classrooms. My time at BTI was split between performing research and working on education outreach. For research, I primarily looked at Brachypodium distachyon, a model organism for grasses closely related to wheat and rice. My objective for research was to explore new ways to expand the mutant library for Brachypodium. Since Brachypodium is also researched in the classroom through a large-scale education outreach project, “BrachyBio!”, I also experimented to create a simple, high school-friendly protocol to measure starch content of seeds, an important phenotype for the research of grains. For education outreach, I learned the various lab activities that BTI presents to teachers. I analyzed these labs to create more research-based inquiry extensions and variations of the current labs. In the end, I developed an inquiry lab that looked at the relationship between switchgrass seed germination and acid rain, a design competition that looked at the challenges of creating a new bioproduct (cornstarch-based packing peanuts), a research-oriented lab that measured the starch content of Brachypodium seeds, and a Brachypodium phenotype extension activity to accurately estimate the flowering times of mutant plants in the classroom.
I had a great summer at BTI and learned much from my awesome mentors. I learned about new material, new lab techniques, and the environment of a research lab. More importantly, I gained more insight into graduate school and into middle school and high school science education challenges. Finally, I gained a lot from this internship and wish to see how the labs I’ve designed are implemented into various classrooms.