Enhancing Science Learning and Literacy

Whitehead Institute’s commitment to training the next generation of scientists extends beyond the graduate students we train and the postdoctoral researchers we mentor. We know that today’s K-12 science classes are the seed-bed for tomorrow’s biomedical research pioneers. That is why we mentor high school science faculty seeking to enhance teaching and learning in their classrooms; and enable middle school and high school students to conduct hands-on research while learning directly from leading scientists.

The Seminar Series for High School Teachers offers educators the opportunity to explore topics at the forefront of biomedical research and to incorporate new ideas into their classrooms. The series—now in its 29th season—brings scores of teachers to the Institute for monthly seminars from October through June. The sessions include a scientific lecture and one-to-one discussions with Institute Members, Fellows, and Postdocs. Integral to the program’s success is the teacher-scientist partnership in which   teachers can partner with Institute scientists who serve to answer scientific questions, provide technical expertise, and visit schools to meet with students. Recent years’ Teachers series have addressed neurodegenerative disease, the microbiome in sickness and health, and the science behind biotech breakthroughs. 

The Spring Lecture Series for High School Students—also in its 29th year—encourages students to explore the facts behind the science headlines through practical exposure to cutting-edge topics in biomedical research. The three-day program includes presentations on important issues and biomedical advances from Institute Members and Fellows; hands-on workshops in Institute laboratories; visits to biotech companies and research organizations; and lunches with young Institute Postdocs and graduate students. Recent years’ High School Student series have addressed genetic engineering, neuroimaging and neurological disorders, and precision medicine in cancer. 

EXPEDITION: BIO–A Summer Science Program for Middle School Students enables rising 7th and 8th graders to exchange their swimsuits for lab coats for a two-week, fully immersive experience. In this widely popular science program, curiosity meets real world science as students delve into the amazing biology that thrives in the world around them. Through hands-on activities both inside and outside the classroom—including interactive laboratory modules, discussions with Institute scientists, and citizen science projects—students learn how methods from the fields of ecology, genetics, chemistry, and bioengineering are used to answer some of the most challenging questions in the life sciences today. And they have an awful lot of fun doing it! 

BioNook is a new online biology education resource that provides free, exciting learning enrichment material for students, teachers, and parents. BioNook offers a broad range of video and print content on biology and on the research process—from deep explorations of how science is done to stories following the lives of scientists—and gives suggestions for fun outside activities and hands-on citizen science projects.

Collectively, Whitehead Institute’s science learning programs help students to develop critical thinking skills, concretely encourages them to pursue studies in science courses, and connects them to role models in the pursuit of careers in science.

Donors can help support each of these important and innovative programs through annual gifts in any amount. With a $100,000 gift, donors can establish a named endowment to provide support for current and new education programs.