Acera receives $50,000 from Bristol-Myers Squibb to reinvent high school biology

January 15, 2019 |

Global biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb has invested $50,000 in Acera School’s education innovation initiative. The funding supports Acera’s “Life Sciences Change Agent Teachers” workshop series, which offers free training in innovative STEM curricula to teachers in public schools. The series aims to empower more schools to introduce lab-based learning and leverage current technologies and research to inspire students.

“We believe that all students should be able to link classroom learning to real world innovations,” said Courtney Dickinson, founder and director of Acera. “Working with relevant 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 enables students to see a pathway for themselves as future scientists and innovators.”

Acera is currently training a cohort of high school biology teachers from across eastern Massachusetts in gene editing, using a curriculum developed and pilot-tested at Acera. Acera’s life sciences lab manager, Michael Hirsch, led the cohort through a CRISPR molecular bio assay set-up and bacterial transformation. The cohort also discussed the practicalities of using CRISPR in their own classrooms with students.

Watch a video of the teachers conducting a lab experiment in genetics.

“Bristol-Myers Squibb is proud to support this real-world learning opportunity for Acera School, and for students who are passionate about the life sciences,” said Saurabh Saha, senior vice president and global head of translational medicine at Bristol-Myers Squibb. “As a science-driven organization, we are committed to investing in STEM programs to help pave the way for the next generation of scientists, who may one day be on the brink of their own ground-breaking discoveries.”

The series includes a day at Novartis’ Community Exploration and Learning Lab (CELL), where teachers learned how scientists today work iteratively in the lab to conduct research, and how to translate these innovations into lesson plans that align with Next Generation Science Standards and offer inspiration and a sense of purpose to students. In addition to gene editing with CRISPR, Acera has a year-long, 11-unit curriculum covering cell cycles, microbiomes, ecology, and other areas of biology.

Founded in 2010, Acera: The Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership is a non-profit STEM school serving high-ability students in grades K-8. The school engages students in individualized, inquiry-based learning that is designed around their passions and aligned with their own abilities. The mission of the Acera’s Innovation in Education initiative is to transform STEM education in public schools and develop the next generation of scientists, innovators, and leaders.

For more information on Acera and its Teachers as Change Agents workshops, visit aceraschool.org.