Tucson schools’ biotechnology training praised

July 30, 2007

By hammersmith

[Source: Mary Bustamante, Tucson Citizen] — Three Tucson Unified School District high schools have been recognized for their programs in biotechnology. Palo Verde, Pueblo and Tucson high magnet schools were featured in a Flinn Foundation and Salt River Project report, “Building the Bioscience Pipeline.” The report said the three schools had “sophisticated and specialized laboratory equipment, with highly qualified teachers and a significant level of technical know-how required of students.”

Only nine schools in the state were highlighted. None of the others was in Tucson. Calling for better education and training, the report said few Arizona programs address the need for qualified laboratory scientists and that a “generation of biology students lack employable laboratory skills.”

Margaret Wilch, science teacher at Tucson High, said in the report, “Our kids don’t do ‘cookbook’ bioscience anymore; we’re able to do in-depth, investigative research. “Some of our students do coordinate research with University of Arizona researchers.”

At Palo Verde, science department chair Kevin Kehl said forensics and biotechnology are elective offerings for juniors and seniors. Because they are electives, he said, “they represent more science than is required… If students tell their friends ‘it’s cool,’ then more sign up, and that’s a large success.”

At Pueblo, teacher Andrew Lettes said bioscience acts as a “carrot for students, adding, “I’m not sure they’d take the science prerequisites if this course wasn’t the reward.”