Science Teachers Come From Far and Near to Hone Their Teaching Skills at Fred Hutchinson

SEATTLE — Jul. 9, 2002 — More than 30 science teachers from Washington, Texas and southeast Asia are spending part of their summer vacation working beside scientists in research laboratories at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and several other partner sites throughout Seattle.

Fred Hutchinson's Science Education Partnership program, which began Monday and will run through July 24, hosts middle-school and high-school teachers from more than a dozen communities throughout Washington as well as two from Singapore and two from Austin, Texas.

Biology teachers Ang Li Ming and Michael Vincent Rodrigues were sent to the United States this summer by the Singapore Ministry of Education to learn about research, materials, techniques and issues in the teaching of genetics and molecular biology in the United States.

The Singaporean government has been working for the past decade on a major economic reform to turn Singapore into the high-tech hub of southeast Asia. Part of this reform involves several "pillars" as the foundation, according to SEP director Nancy Hutchison, Ph.D.

"The fourth and final pillar is life-science education. This is where we hope to demonstrate the strength of professional-learning communities such as the Science Education Partnership, which bring scientists and teachers together," Hutchison said.

While this is the second year in a row that the award-winning teacher-mentorship program includes teachers from Singapore, it is the first time the program has drawn educators from another state. The Biotechnology Program at Austin Community College, in collaboration with UTeach at the University of Texas, plans to develop its own SEP-like program. Austin teacher Jennifer Jordan and school administrator Michelle Bubnis are attending SEP this summer in hopes of using what they learn to help establish a similar science-education partnership to serve Austin-area schools.

"We'll be working with them in an advisory/mentorship capacity so they can go back and help design a program of their own from the ground up," said Hutchison, herself a Texas native and alumna of the University of Texas.

Working in labs at Fred Hutchinson, the University of Washington, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and the corporate biotechnology firms Immunex Corp. and ZymoGenetics Inc., this summer's cadre of teachers will update and hone their lab techniques and teaching skills in subjects ranging from genetics to molecular biology.

Since the Science Education Partnership began in 1991, more than 225 teachers have participated and the program has touched more than 110,000 students throughout the state, said program director Hutchison.

"Teaching science is like teaching a foreign language. By participating in the Science Education Partnership, teachers explore the whole country; they get immersed. After the two weeks are up, they have begun to think like the 'locals' and see how the research culture really works," she said. "As a result, their students gain a better understanding of what science really is and how it influences their daily lives."

The teachers will spend about half of their time working one-on-one with a scientist-mentor in a research laboratory on projects tailored to their interests. Lab work over the past several years has focused on such topics as protein structure, DNA sequencing, oncogenes, yeast genetics and fruit-fly development. This mentorship often leads to lasting partnerships that extend beyond the summer session to include classroom visits by scientists during the school year.

"Many of our mentors have a sense of wanting to give something back to the community; this is a great chance for them to do that," Hutchison said. The program also gives the scientists a chance to improve their own communication and teaching skills by learning from the teachers.

The other half of the educators' time will be spent in the Teaching Laboratory at Fred Hutchinson, where they will work as a group with lead teachers — master teachers experienced with the SEP workshops — to learn effective ways to use scientific techniques in the classroom and develop curricula for the coming school year.

Key to their planning is access to the SEP's science-kit loan program, which is available on an ongoing basis to all teachers who participate in the year-long program. The kits, assembled and maintained at Fred Hutchinson, contain all the equipment necessary for experiments in such areas as DNA gel electrophoresis, bacterial transformation and fruit-fly genetics.

Last year, more than 100 Washington teachers used SEP kits in their science classes.

"We send out the real thing; these are not kids' toys," Hutchison says. The kits, costing up to $10,000 each, come in bright green crates that overflow with dozens of supplies that range from the exotic (microcentrifuges) to the mundane (plastic wrap, meat tenderizer, dishwasher detergent).

SEP also provides teachers with:

  • surplus lab supplies that have been donated by labs from throughout the research community;

  • a resource library from which to borrow the latest teaching tools, from textbooks to DVDs; and

  • a $500 stipend and graduate-level credit through the University of Washington.

"Another benefit of the Science Education Partnership, perhaps less tangible but equally important, is the connection teachers make with scientists and their teaching colleagues," Hutchison said. "It is a real learning community."

But perhaps most important, the program encourages teachers — many of whom haven't been in a laboratory since college — to sharpen their critical thinking, questioning and problem-solving skills. In short: to think outside the box.

While SEP receives direct financial support from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the program since 1994 has received major funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or HHMI. The program also receives financial support from the Olympic Four Seasons Terry Fox Shore Run/Walk and the Broadmoor-Washington Park Guild. Washington Mutual Foundation and Immunex have actively supported the kit-loan program as well.

Editor's Note
For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Kristen Woodward, (206) 667-5095. Digital photos of teachers can be arranged upon request through Caren Brinkema of the Science Education Partnership, (206) 667-4639 or


2002 Science Education Partnership Participants

Digital photos of most teachers can be arranged upon request

*Denotes lead teacher


Ang Li Ming, Victoria Junior College
Michael Vincent Rodrigues, Xinmin Secondary School


Jennifer Jordan, McNeil High School

Michelle Bubnis, Leander School District Instructional Services


Shawna Hodge, Auburn Riverside High School
Laine Lenihan, West Auburn High School
Judy Shaw, Auburn Riverside High School

Laurie Greco*, Eastside Catholic High School
Christy Shiers, Newport High School

Lynette Lambert, White River High School

Timothy Hartford, Edmonds-Woodway High School

Cynthia McIntyre*, Everett High School

Shawn Stern, Ilwaco Junior/Senior High

Gig Harbor
Anne Allard-Wainwright, Harbor Homeschool Cooperative
James Mills, Penninsula High School

Shawn Rainwater, Inglemoor High School
Sarah Talle, Inglemoore High School

Mike Fellows*, Lakewood High School

Mount Vernon
Elizabeth Harpel, Mount Vernon High School
Margaret Anne Rose, Emerson High School

Marcia Sizemore, Black Hills High School

Andrew Schwebke*, Rogers High School

Dori Bennet, McClure Middle School
Heidi Dullum, Nathan Hale High School
Carolyn DuPen*, Holy Names Academy
Wendy Lane, Ingraham High School
Sophie Pritchard, St. Therese School
Peter Schurke, Ingraham High School
Tracy Stoops*, Shorewood High School

Kelly Jo Grossman, Shorecrest High School
Danielle Duchesne, Shorecrest High School

Catherine Nitchman, Central Kitsap Junior High

Amanda Knowles Bethel High School

Media Contact
Kristen Woodward
(206) 667-5095

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home of two Nobel Prize laureates, is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. Fred Hutchinson receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other independent U.S. research center. Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, the center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. Fred Hutchinson, in collaboration with its clinical and research partners, the University of Washington Academic Medical Center and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest and is one of 38 nationwide. For more information, visit the center's Web site at