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Teachers Pepped, Prepped About Ag Biotech

What’s needed to effectively communicate biotechnology’s role in agriculture to over 15,000 students?

This summer it involved 31 middle and high school teachers “recharging their batteries” in two concurrent ag biotech workshops. The “teaching the teachers” program was made possible by avid support from industry and the community, gifted instructors, and the participation of eager science and ag educators from across the state

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has been coordinating these workshops since 2012. It’s one of the many ways NCBiotech works to grow the life sciences, right along with funding ideas, making connections and catalyzing job creation. We help provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina through the support of life science research, business, education and strategic policy statewide. This is our primary education component.

Big support from sponsors, such as this donation from the Monsanto Fund, enable NCBiotech to boost ag biotech education each summer. This presentation was by Dale Karlson, Ph.D., discovery screening assay technology lead for Monsanto in RTP (second from left). Accepting the check for NCBiotech were (from left) Michael Wilkins, senior vice president of statewide operations & economic development,  Scott johnson, vice president of agricultural biotechnology, and the author, Amber Niebauer.

Ag biotech partners from across our state continue to pay it forward and invest in this and other educational outreach programs geared toward training our state’s future workforce. Multinational ag biotech companies BASF, Bayer CropScience, Monsanto through its Monsanto Fund, and Syngenta have been sustaining partners of our Ag Biotech Industry in the Classroom program since 2012.

That means they not only provide all-important financial support, but also open their doors to the teachers participating in our summer “Industry in the Classroom” educational programs. The sponsors provide facility and greenhouse tours and their employees lead discussions about their companies’ histories and goals, their personal career paths, and future career opportunities likely to be available in ag biotech.

These workshops also let teachers meet with farmers and growers, specialists from land grant universities such as NC State and NC A&T State, and representatives of a number of other support organizations including AgCareers.com, Agriculture Future of America, and the North Carolina FFA Association.

Without the community support, we would not have been able to establish such a successful and highly valued workshop program for NC educators.

Instructors are, of course, an especially vital component of the workshops. Each workshop has a lead instruct

or from a university, who provides subject-matter expertise, and a master instructor – someone currently teaching at the middle or high school level who can relate workshop content back to their teaching curricula.

Without their dedication to this effort, we could not create a quality program of lectures, guest speakers and activities that the participating teachers can then take back to their classrooms around the state. This summer's group of 31 workshop alumni will impart their newly acquired knowledge to a projected 15,000 pupils.

By far, my most rewarding experience is always meeting these teachers from across North Carolina (81 percent of them in this summer’s sessions came from outside the Triangle).​

 It’s especially gratifying to experience their excitement about what they learn in these workshops.  It’s information and invigoration that they can carry with them into their own classrooms when summer ends and school begins. I recall one teacher telling me that she “loved being the sponge and soaking up all the information.”

Sound interesting? If you’re a qualifying North Carolina educator, come increase your knowledge, confidence and communication about biotech’s role in agriculture. You can help stimulate student interest in rewarding careers in ag biotech. Visit www.ncbiotech.org/agbiotechclassroom for 2016 workshop information.

As the ag biotech program and resource development manager at NCBiotech, Amber Niebauer leads development of this educational outreach program.

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