Arizona educators gather to plan stronger high-school bio programs

May 7, 2008

By hammersmith

By Jim McPherson, Flinn Foundation

Bio Education Summer Group PhotoMore than 100 bioscience teachers convened for Arizona’s first bioscience education summit on April 18 in Tempe, discussing ways to expand and strengthen statewide biotechnology curricula and programs. The summit featured a morning of speakers on topics that ranged from trends in biotechnology to models of exemplary biotechnology education, and an afternoon of breakout sessions.

The daylong conference, held at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center in Tempe, was sponsored by the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, the Flinn Foundation, and Mesa Public Schools’ Biotechnology Academy, with funding support from Arizona’s two largest utilities, SRP and APS.

According to Darrell Sheppard of Salt River Project and one of the summit’s organizers, “Such a gathering advances one key recommendation of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Education Committee, that being the need to ‘improve the knowledge, skills, attraction, and retention of bioscience high school teachers in Arizona.'”

This need and others were identified in a 2007 report, Building the Bioscience Pipeline, which profiled leading K-12 bioscience-education programs in Arizona. The report also identified shortcomings in Arizona’s education system that must be addressed to meet the workforce needs of the state’s rapidly growing bioscience industry.

The summit’s morning component included five invited speakers:

  • Michael Mobley, associate director for the Biodesign Institute, summarized a brief history of biotechnology and healthcare, future trends, and the importance of educating today’s students to meet challenges ahead. PowerPoint available here.
  • Jim McPherson, assistant vice president for public affairs at the Flinn Foundation, highlighted five years of progress on Arizona’s ten-year strategic plan to strengthen its bioscience sector. PowerPoint available here.
  • Mitch Horowitz, director of strategy for Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, outlined recommendations from a 25-member task force convened by the Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee to improve high-school bioscience education. PowerPoint available here.
  • Elaine Johnson, director of the BioLink National Center in San Francisco, spoke about trends in educating a 21st-century biotechnology workforce. PowerPoint available here.
  • Katy Korsmeyer, president of the Bay Area Biotechnology Education Consortium and program director of the Santa Clara County Biotechnology Education Partnership, outlined successful models for providing biotechnology education in the Bay Area. PowerPoint available here.

The afternoon included three moderated breakout sessions:

Richard D. Fisher, director of educational outreach for the Biodesign Institute, led a wrap-up discussion of the breakout sessions, followed by a tour of the Biodesign Institute on the ASU Tempe campus.

For more information:

Building the Bioscience Pipeline: A Snapshot of Arizona High School Bioscience Education, February 2007 (1.83 MB PDF). A report on the status of high school bioscience education programs in Arizona including profiles of selected efforts. Compiled by the Flinn Foundation in conjunction with Salt River Project.

Building the Bioscience Pipeline: Analysis and Recommendations, September 2007 (797KB PDF). A follow-up to the February 2007 snapshot of bioscience education high school programs in Arizona. This report provides analysis and recommendations for improving the instruction of bioscience education in Arizona’s high schools.

Building the Bioscience Pipeline, September 2007 (179 KB PDF). A brochure that briefly summarizes the work of the Education Committee of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, drawing from information presented in the February and September “Building the Bioscience Pipeline” reports.