BLACKSBURG, Va., August 27, 2007 - The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) is continuing its work to integrate transdisciplinary science and cyberinfrastructure concepts into high school and college classrooms, sponsoring a recent series of workshops for high school teachers.

VBI Training, Education and Outreach Program Manager Daphne Rainey teamed up with two high school teachers from Galileo Magnet High School (GMHS) in Danville, Va. to develop educational materials to share with other high school teachers in the Southside area of the state. Since the high school teachers had already been through the process of incorporating cyberinfrastructure themes into their science courses, they wanted to help ease the transition for other teachers. Six workshops were held over the course of three weeks in June at Virginia Tech's Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, with eight teachers attending from surrounding areas.

VBI has been working with GMHS and Bluefield State College to develop an introductory bioinformatics course for high school and college students. The goal of the project, which is funded by a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is to broaden students' access to computer-related technologies and encourage trained students to pursue higher education opportunities involving bioinformatics. An integral part of the course is a project-centric teaching paradigm to help the teachers engage their students in the process of applying concepts of cyberinfrastructure by integrating biology, computer science, mathematics, and statistics. Learning modules serve as the focus for the course and involve several key pathogens. Each module is composed of a scenario involving a pathogen of importance to public health and is designed to stimulate interaction and participation, introducing the concepts of cyberinfrastructure through role playing activities and focused presentations.

Teachers from GMHS have contributed to course development by integrating reading materials, tutorials from the National Library of Medicine, and laboratory materials to supplement the modules. The teachers identified an area of need for this type of transdisciplinary education and coursework, recognizing that it could serve as a resource for high school teachers nationwide.

VBI's Cyberinfrastructure Group Co-Director Oswald Crasta serves as principal investigator for the NSF-funded project, while Education and Outreach Officer Susan Faulkner and Senior Bioinformatics Scientist Stephen Cammer serve as co-principal investigators.

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Susan Bland
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Published by Susan Bland, August 27, 2007