2009 - Originally funded by HealthForce Minnesota, each Lab is a valuable regional resource that carries state-of the-art scientific equipment in portable cabinets directly to high school classrooms. The Labs are available to any teacher that has completed the Mayo Clinic Educator Academy, which is open to secondary level science teachers that make the commitment to participate in an intensive one-week summer training session and four meetings throughout the school year to encourage collaboration and review techniques.
We quickly discovered that one trailer was simply not adequate. To ensure that we could provide the needed level of support for the current program and meet district demand, we launched a funding campaign to develop and deploy a second trailer. Funding from HealthForce Minnesota, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Workforce Development, Inc., Winona State University, and the AgStar Fund for Rural America, a second trailer was deployed for the 2010-2011 school year. The MAELC supported this expansion with a 2009 Innovation Grant to the STEM Forward (formerly RAMSP) in the amount of $7,500 to be used to replenish consumable supplies.
The trailers provide all the supplies and equipment to replicate the experiments that the teachers learn in their high school classrooms. Supplies are used for food science experiements (including measuring pH with natural food substances, examination of sugar levels in soda, food borrne illness due to E. coli/salmonella/bacillus/listeriosis, environment bacteria testing, oxidation and food packaging, irradiation pasteurization, and fermentation of cultured yogurt) as well as the agriculture and molecular biology experiments (including genetically modified crop testing, DNA extraction, restriction endonuclease digestion, gel electrophoresis/analysis, DAN sequencing analysis, mitochondrial DNA extraction and amplication, plasmid transcription and translation, PCR cheese testing, gene silencing using siRNA, and eukaryote using C. elegans).
Since the beginning of the Academies, over 140 teachers have participated from 45 school districts. Many individual educators have actually repeated the course since the Mobile Science Labs were introduced to review and re-familiarize themselves with the curriculum. The availability of this resource is making a significant impact in our region. One teacher from Wabasha-Kellogg stated that “the entire experience was the highlight of my year. I greatly enjoyed sharing these techniques and technologies with my students. Many students commented that this was the coolest thing they had ever done in science. The program is irreplaceable and invaluable." Another educator from Winona commented that “the technology and advanced equipment allowed student access to supplies and knowledge not normally available at the high school level. This is a wonderful opportunity for my students. It was a learning experience that gave my students a taste of what is emerging in science and education. Thank you for this chance to provide them with an experience that few students have.”
Teacher Impact: The current list of eligible teachers come primarily from the 13 member districts of the Rochester Area Math Science Partnership and/or the 54 member districts of the Southeast Service Cooperative, including Dodge County (Hayfield, Kasson-Mantorville, Triton), Fillmore County (Fillmore Central, Kingsland, Lanesboro, Rushford-Peterson), Freeborn County (Albert Lea, Glenville-Emmons), Goodhue County (Cannon Falls, Goodhue, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Pine Island, Red Wing, Zumbrota-Mazeppa), Houston County (Houston, Spring Grove), Mower County (Austin, Southland), Olmsted County (Byron, Chatfield, Dover-Eyota, Rochester, Stewartville), Steele County (Medford, Owatonna), Wabasha County (Lake City, Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Wabasha-Kellogg), and Winona County (St. Charles, Winona). In addition, teachers from 16 districts outside of our region have participated in the training, but have their own equipment or borrow from Ross.
Student Impact: The two Mobile Science Labs have served over 10,000 students. Input from educators helps us continuously assess and improve the program. Student surveys have been collected from over 1,700 students and the results demonstrate that the student impact has been significant. In fact, over 90% indicated that the experience personally impacted them in a positive way (by increasing engagement in their learning, teaching them new skills, and/or increasing awareness of scientific careers). Furthermore, 28% indicate that they are interested in a medical or health science career, 24% in a STEM-related field, and 17% in agriculture, food science, or natural resources. Of the 18 categories, these three rank at the top.
Project Partners: This project brings together the talents and resources of the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC), the Mayo Clinic, and STEM Forward (formerly RAMSP). Each of these partners offer expertise in teaching the curriculum, managing the equipment and supplies, and coordinating school use of the mobile science lab. These three partners share other assets and resources that support this project. The input and backing of the stakeholders in these organizations believe in the goals of the Mobile Science Lab, are committed to the success of the project, and will help sustain the program with promotion and ongoing support. We leverage the three partners’ community credibility and distinct strengths. Mayo Clinic provides professional development, STEM Forward supports promotion and communications, and SSC coordinates and is accountable to all stakeholders. We are continuing a proven program and ensuring ongoing success in meeting the STEM learning needs of science educators and students.
Criteria for Success: On-going formative and summative evaluations have been and will continue to be an important component in this project. We believe in continuous improvement and will include our newly reached classrooms with an evaluation program that will include, but is not limited to, educator evaluations, documentation of student impact through a post-participation survey, and student evaluations.