Grant to improve science education in rural schools


CORVALLIS - A number of middle and high schools in Oregon will be able to add a new educational program in biotechnology to their curriculum with the support of a grant from the Toshiba America Foundation to Oregon State University.

This Science and Math Improvement Grant will support a program at OSU called "Introducing Rural Students to Biotechnology," and will ultimately benefit about 600 students in 15 science classes at six different schools.

"This type of partnership provides more resources, equipment and teachers for these rural schools so they can improve their science education programs," said Sujaya Rao, an assistant professor of entomology at OSU. "It's also a tremendous educational experience for the OSU students who are involved, giving them a chance to learn teamwork and creativity while helping younger students."

The program will continue to build on OSU's broad outreach efforts to K-12 schools across Oregon, especially in innovative new approaches to experiment and inquiry-based science education. Last year, the university received a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a Rural Science Education Project. The university has also pioneered the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience, or SMILE program, has been active in the science-oriented Saturday Academy, and created other programs such as Science Connections, an outreach effort to Portland public schools.

With this new initiative, OSU students and educators will work with schools in Alsea, Halsey, Lebanon, Sweet Home and Independence and incorporate sophisticated biotechnology equipment into life science classes. A goal, educators say, is to illustrate to rural students how biotechnology applications affect their lives and communities. The topics will range from the components of genes to DNA insertion, cell structure, bacterial mutants and cloning. Students will also explore ethical issues in biotechnology.

The Toshiba America Foundation is a private, endowed, not-for-profit grant making organization dedicated to supporting education programs in the United States. Its mission is to contribute to and improve the quality of science and math K-12 education in U.S. communities by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers.