Andover High science teachers want to give local students a look into biotech industry that is an integral part of the town's economy and job base.
A mobile biotech laboratory will make a three-day stop at Andover High School next month as part of a $12,000 grant awarded to the district by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation.
"Living where we live, with pharmaceutical companies and life science technologies right in our back yard, it's important to let them know what biotech is," said Mary Jo Carabatsos, the science program coordinator at Andover High.
Between March 18 and 20, students will take part in a lab exercise on Boston University's MobileLab, a 40-foot bus fully equiped with laboratory equipment.
Though roughly 75 students are expected to participate each day, the three-year biotechnology grant's primary focus is on teacher training, according to Andover High Science Program Coordinator Mary Jo Carabatsos.
Carabatsos and Andover High science teachers Steve Sanborn and Melanie Cutler trained over the summer with the biotechnology equipment used on the MobileLab.
By being able to teach students on the MobileLab with the assistance of a Boston University instructor, Carabatsos said Andover teachers will begin to feel more familiar with the equipment and the concepts of biotechnology.
"It's really more for us," said Carabatsos. "Ideally, the teachers who are now trained will be training other teachers."
Eventually, Carabatsos said the goal is for Andover High School to buy its own lab equipment and begin incorporating biotechnology lessons into its science curriculum.
A half-credit biotech class has also already been proposed for next fall, Carabatsos said.
Carabatsos applied for the biotech grant nearly two years ago. Awarded last July, Andover is receiving $8,000 this year, with $4,000 more expected over the next two years.
The MobileLab will visit 43 schools across the state in 2007, according to according to Christy Redfield, manager of the Bioteach program run by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation, who said that learning on the MobileLab provides a unique educational opportunity for both students and teachers,
"The goal is to get the biotechnology into the science classrooms," said Redfield. "You have the teachers with absolutely no experience in biotechnology and they love it, because they know their students will."
Redfield also stressed the importance of introducing students to biotechnology.
"I think it's vital," she said. "We're going to see it growing tremendously."
On the MobileLab, Andover students will work with proteins to identify signs of the disease sickle cell anemia.
Redfield said the students and teachers will be using equipment including a gel electrophoresis machine and micro-pipets, both common instruments in the biotechnology field.
"I think the goal of the program as a whole is to make biotechnology a part of the curriculum," said Carabatsos. "The idea is to not teach a unit on biotech, but to implement it throughout your regular curriculum, so that it isn't novel to kids. It should just be part of a regular science curriculum experience. It's so mainstream now that kids should just be aware of it in a typical high school science classroom."