New UF program to give teachers unique tools for teaching science

Published: June 21 2007

Category:Announcements, Top Stories

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — High school teachers will learn how to use research on new biological threats like citrus canker and West Nile virus to engage science students through a new University of Florida program.

The Interdisciplinary Center for Ongoing Research/Education Partnership Program will use a $675,000 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to bring 136 teachers from five Florida counties to Gainesville, where they will get a hands-on introduction to research on “emerging pathogens,” a new initiative at UF. The teachers will then partner with researchers and graduate students to incorporate this knowledge of new and future biological threats to plant, animal and human life — and how to study them — into the high school science curriculum.

The teachers are from limited-resource schools in Broward, Collier, Palm Beach, Alachua and Marion counties.

“Emerging pathogens is so interdisciplinary,” said ICORE Director Mary Jo Koroly, a UF biochemist and director of UF’s Center for Precollegiate Education and Training. “The concepts, technologies, and societal relevance can be incorporated into lessons in biology, chemistry, physics, and technology classrooms to give teachers a hanger for getting kids excited about science content and the diverse careers it offers.”

At the end of a two-week training institute, teachers will develop an “action proposal” for their classrooms. When their proposal is accepted by an advisory committee, they will be awarded a $200 mini-grant and the equipment and personnel support to carry out their proposal during the school year, Koroly said.

As part of the program, ICORE teachers will mentor other teachers, Koroly said. “We like to think of it as a cascade of opportunities to bring state-of-the-art science into schools, especially those with limited resources,” she said.

At the end of the school year, teachers will reunite with researchers to discuss classroom and community outcomes, and may choose to earn a certificate in biotechnology education or a graduate degree.

UF has partnered with Florida Atlantic University and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale to provide resources to teachers from the three school systems in South Florida. Both facilities are sending a representative to the ICORE Institute who will assist teachers from their region during the school year.

Another focus of ICORE is on research for students. The goal is seamless integration of research opportunities for students from high school to university to workplace, a goal now attainable with the help of two recent HHMI awards to UF, she said.

In 2006, HHMI gave $1.5 million to UF to create a new undergraduate research program. Also last year, zoology Professor Louis Guillette was given $1 million over four years to support undergraduate science education efforts at UF.

“Doing research gives you lifelong learning skills,” she said. ““When you do some real research work in high school, you generally end up doing it in college, whether or not you’re a science major.”

The ICORE program also gives graduate students a chance to volunteer in an outreach program with an interdisciplinary focus, Koroly said. Graduate students also will attend a seminar on emerging pathogens, distributing information about the initiative within the university as well as to outside communities.

Koroly said the HHMI grant has provided the ability to create the kind of program that will model effective partnerships between educators and researchers across the state, and will help make current science accessible to teachers and their college or workforce-bound students.

UF’s new grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to the College of Medicine and its collaborators from IFAS and the College of Education is among 31 awarded to medical colleges, hospitals and research institutions to support an interest in science, particularly among young students.


Mary Jo Koroly,, 352-392-7685

Category:Announcements, Top Stories