"Not Like School"
In 2002 a scientist, Dr. Steven Farber, and a former educator, Dr. Jamie Shuda, set out to improve science literacy and attitudes about science in the public schools in Philadelphia. They launched BioEYES, a wildly successful K-12 science outreach and teacher training program that uses zebrafish to teach school children developmental biology, genetics, and experimental design.
Children have described the program as “not being like school,” and that it “made me want to come to school;” or that it was their “favorite thing we did this year,” and they “felt like a parent.” One student said, “One of the most interesting things was watching the fish grow up. At first, I didn't think it was going to be cool, but it was!”
These are not typical reactions for school children.
More than 130,000 students and 800 teachers have now participated in BioEYES. The program is in a dozen centers in the U.S., Australia, and China, including in Dr. Farber's lab at Carnegie’s Department of Embryology in Baltimore, MD.
The success of BioEYES has led to Drs. Farber and Shuda publishing or being interviewed about the program’s impact on young scientists in publications like The Journal of STEM Outreach, Genetics, The Public Library of Science (PLoS), Upworthy, and The New York Times, as well as its co-creators receiving several awards (e.g., from New England BioLabs, Genetics Society of America, and Society for Developmental Biology).
Behind the program's efforts lie a need to close the opportunity gap in public schools, to better position students for higher paying jobs, and to diversify the sciences. Students also need to be taught how to evaluate science claims, important given the increasingly common practice of turning to the internet for information, despite its variable quality. More broadly, we need a scientifically literate society, capable of using basic science skills and knowledge to understand and solve the global challenges we face. Thankfully, BioEYES is up to the task!
To learn more about BioEYES, please visit our website at www.bioeyes.org.