AceraEI secures $50k Amgen Foundation grant towards life sciences training for public schools

September 10, 2019 |

The Amgen Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the global biotechnology company Amgen, has awarded $50,000 to Acera: The Massachusetts School for Science, Technology and Leadership and its public outreach division, Acera Education Innovations (AceraEI). The grant will support AceraEI’s Life Sciences professional development workshops for public schools.

The teacher workshop series provides training in innovative STEM curricula to increase science engagement and inquiry-driven experiences in public schools that link to real-world innovations. The training, combined with ongoing teacher support, assists schools in creating science labs that teach 21st century skills – like gene editing using CRISPR – and engage students in cutting-edge biology to foster the next generation of innovators and scientists.

“All students should be able to link classroom learning to real-world innovations; the CRISPR toolkit is the first step in our plan to collaborate with schools to reinvent high school biology,” said Courtney Dickinson, founder and director of Acera. “Working with breakthrough technology that is in the news, and engaging in deep discussions to understand these innovations, including how they work and why they matter, makes science labs meaningful and enable students to see a pathway for themselves as future scientists and innovators.”

AceraEI trained two groups of Massachusetts-based high school biology teachers in gene editing earlier this year using a curriculum developed and pilot-tested at Acera School. The three-day intensive workshops included conducting hands-on experiments using a CRISPR-based molecular biology assay and detecting bacterial transformation. Participating teachers have now begun applying the curriculum in their own classrooms with students. As a result of the toolkit and training, 1,000 public school students will soon apply CRISPR to edit a gene in their high school science classrooms.

“The pace of progress in our understanding of biology is astonishing and has clear and direct implications to how our students learn the subject,” said Eduardo Cetlin, president of the Amgen Foundation. “The Amgen Foundation shares Acera’s ambition to reinvent biology education and is excited to support their efforts to bring CRISPR to classrooms in partnership with science teachers. Together we are inspiring the next generation to think big, ask challenging questions, and explore potential answers.”

A new series of teacher cohorts, called the Life Sciences Change Agent Workshop Series, will take place this fall (Gene editing on October 18/November 15, and Human Microbiome on November 1/December 6), and Amgen’s grant helps make this possible. AceraEI plans to run multiple workshop series each year, covering Acera’s yearlong nine-unit science lab curriculum. The units address key areas of biology in new ways that are tangibly linked to current world needs and inventions. High engagement student learning transforms their interest and relationship to these topics, making it vibrant and relevant. Teachers can learn more at aceraschool.org/reinventbiology.

About Acera

AceraEI (Education Innovations) exists to transform STEM education in public schools and develop the next generation of scientists, innovators, and leaders. Acera EI works with public school districts to develop a plan for transforming STEM education. The organization has selected Lowell, Mass. and Lynn, Mass. as its first communities to receive Acera EI toolkits. Founded in 2010, the Acera School is a nonprofit STEM school serving high-ability students in grades K-8. The school and its enrichment programs function as an educational innovation hub to invent new curricula with evidence-based pedagogy, founded with the mission to help catalyze change in public education. Acera pedagogy engages students to learn habits of mind like systems thinking, problem-solving, emotional intelligence and collaboration skills within projects aligns with each student’s capacities and interests, in an inquiry-based approach.

About the Amgen Foundation

The Amgen Foundation seeks to advance excellence in science education to inspire the next generation of innovators and invest in strengthening communities where Amgen staff members live and work. To date, the Foundation has donated over $300 million to local, regional, and international nonprofit organizations that impact society in inspiring and innovative ways. The Amgen Foundation brings the excitement of discovery to the scientists of tomorrow through several signature programs, including Amgen Scholars, Amgen Biotech Experience, and Amgen Teach.