GrowNextGen teacher leader Rachel Sanders recently had the opportunity to attend HudsonAlpha’s Genomics in the Field workshop in Alabama. The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology conducts genomics-based research to improve human health and well being; implements genomic medicine, sparking economic development; and provides educational outreach to nurture the next generation of biotech researchers and entrepreneurs, as well as to create a biotech literate public.

The Genomics in the Fields workshop focused on food and fuel, showing participants how agricultural genomics is being implemented to face the challenges of finding renewable energy and feeding a world of more than seven billion. Teachers attending learned about opportunities for students to investigate challenging biology concepts using stories about food.

Sanders said, “I had a great time at the Genomics in the Fields conference! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the HudsonAlpha staff and hearing about their professional backgrounds. I will be able to share with my students more real-world, relevant stories of how industry leaders are also acting as teachers of some fashion throughout society.

“My second take away was a food label sorting activity to actually look at how we define the terms “Natural” and “Healthy”. Madelene Loftin struck a chord with me when she stated, “‘Natural’ and ‘Healthy’ are emotionally-laden words, and we need to know how people define these terms because it matters when holding discussions.” I really liked how she continuously reminded us science-minded folks to be mindful of the words we use to help educate or even just discuss topics with the general public.

“As a bioresearch instructor, I also enjoyed the G-MOD activity that gives a true tangible sense of what is happening inside a PCR machine and DNA molecules during gel electrophoresis. I also hope to integrate the Aluminum Tolerant Corn activity into my classroom by preparing the wetlabs and then conducting the bioinformatics piece for my students. This will help them see the speed and magnitude with which these databases process information to gain a better insight into the field of computer science.

“Finally, in light of the pandemic, I am going to have my students engage in the Timeline Challenge, a claim-evidence-reasoning challenge where they investigate key advances in agriculture and biotechnology to complete an agricultural challenge. They also gave some literacy strategies to help students connect with science content that I may implement to drive some online discussions during our second week of virtual school.”

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