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Ag Biotech Workshop Teaches The Teacher

EDITOR'S NOTE: This guest blog is from a teacher who enrolled in a June 2014 week-long summer workshop created by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and industry partners for middle and high school science and ag teachers. This was the fourth of these workshops designed to increase knowledge and confidence about agricultural biotechnology topics, to improve communication regarding biotechnology’s role in agriculture, and to stimulate student interest in ag biotech careers. Teachers carry out hands-on activities, hear from and connect with industry representatives, receive lesson plans and curriculum materials for their classrooms, tour multinational ag biotech companies, and meet with farmers/growers. The 70 North Carolina teachers who have participated so far expect to share their new knowledge with some 35,000 students statewide. See a blog from an industry "insider" who participated in the workshop here, and from one of the workshop instructors here.


Several weeks ago, I reluctantly found myself in line to ride a rollercoaster. Not just any rollercoaster, but one that begins by suspending you in the air for five seconds before plunging down the slope to finish the ride. 

Although my children couldn’t wait for their turn, I was almost in tears. I asked myself, “Why did I do this?”  For several reasons, but one of them is the same that motivated me to sign up for the Ag Biotech Industry in the Classroom workshop this summer: I wanted to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone to become a better teacher, mom, and person. 

This workshop was everything I could have hoped for. I found knowledgeable professors/guest speakers, resources for my classroom and myself, and met some wonderful teachers that inspired me. Part of the workshop focused on topics that I already introduce in class, such as plasmids and enzymes. But now I can include agronomy instead of relying only on animal biology,  my comfort zone.  I'm looking forward to using the labs and demonstrations in class, such as the Play-Doh plasmid (below)


The rest of the workshop introduced topics that I had not fully understood previously but am now comfortable with facilitating, such as GMOs (Roundup Ready crops, GMO labeling, drought-tolerant plants, etc.).

It also helped me know more about career opportunities in biotechnology, and the role of automation in science/agriculture. I recently purchased an Arduino controller board as a result of one of the sessions in the workshop with the hope of bringing it to the classroom and inspiring my students, just as I was inspired.   

The only disappointment for the week was when it came to the end.

Thank you to the many people and organizations that allowed this workshop to take place. 

How are you going to step out of your comfort zone this year?

Kathryn Gerber is a biology teacher at New Bern High School. She received her B.A. in science from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and began teaching in 1998 after receiving her M.Ed. in secondary education from George Mason University. She received her National Board Certification in Adolescence and Young Adulthood/Science in 2003, and renewed in 2013.


Kathryn et al, it was a pleasure to share and learn from all you. -Karthik

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