In a new program, researchers bring live fish into classrooms to teach the fundamentals of biology not only helps students learn, but improves their attitudes about science.
The study of nearly 20,000 K-12 students, who raised zebrafish from embryos over the course of a week, found that kids at all grade levels showed significant learning gains.
They also responded more positively to statements such as “I know what it’s like to be a scientist.”
The results, to be published by the journal PLOS Biology, suggest that an immersive experience with a living creature can be a successful strategy to engage young people in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
During the course, students collect zebrafish embryos and watch them develop from single cells to swimming larvae complete with beating hearts and distinct pigmentation.
Elementary students learn about human and fish anatomy, habitats, cells, and DNA.
Middle school students identify observable traits of zebrafish offspring, and, in high school, students learn how scientists determine the genetic makeup of parents by studying their offspring.
By the end of the week, all students are analyzing data and discussing results like real scientists.
After the program, students were more positive about who scientists are, the importance of science and the popularity of science.
The attitudes of elementary students changed the most, with improvement in six of 11 statements.
The statement that generated the most positive change for all of the students was, “I know what it’s like to be a scientist.”
The course is part of an education project, BioEYES, which operates in 104 schools in the United States and 25 in Australia.
In Baltimore, the program runs in 45 schools (36 of them Baltimore City public schools), reaching more than 4,000 students a year.
The program is taught by classroom teachers who train alongside educators from the Carnegie Institution and universities, as well as by “model teachers” who train with BioEYES staff for three years before running the program on their own.
Citation: Shuda JR, et al. (2016). Project BioEYES: Accessible Student-Driven Science for K–12 Students and Teachers. PLOS Biology, published online. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2000520.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to David Schmelick and Deirdre Hammer/JHU.