Science Teachers Go To 'Summer School' at Fred Hutchinson

SEATTLE — Jul. 7, 2003 — Two-dozen science teachers from Washington are spending part of their vacation at "summer school," working beside scientists in research laboratories at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and several other partner sites throughout Seattle.

This special summer experience is part of the Fred Hutchinson's Science Education Partnership program (SEP), which provides valuable professional development for teachers. The summer workshop, which begins July 7 and will run through July 23, hosts middle-school and high-school teachers from more than a dozen communities throughout the state.

Working in labs at Fred Hutchinson and partnering local academic research institutions and biotechnology firms, this summer's cadre of teachers will update and hone their lab techniques and teaching strategies in life sciences, particularly genetics and molecular biology.

"Teaching science is like teaching a foreign language," said program director Nancy Hutchison, Ph.D. "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."

Participating institutions this year, in addition to Fred Hutchinson, include the University of Washington, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, and the corporate biotechnology firms Amgen (formerly Immunex) and ZymoGenetics, Inc. This year for the first time the Pacific Northwest Research Institute (PNRI) will welcome SEP teachers into their labs.

"Our scientists appreciate the opportunity to work with these dedicated teachers. We especially admire SEP's commitment to building mentor relationships between science teachers and practicing scientists," said Paul Robertson, M.D., scientific director of PNRI.

After a jumpstart session to learn laboratory basics, 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 — focusing on effective ways to use scientific techniques in the classroom and refining 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 yearlong 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.

"Each new group of teachers coming into SEP each year directly influences more than 3,000 students annually," said SEP director Hutchison. Combined with ongoing participants' use, last year, more than 10,000 Washington students worked with 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 filled with 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 teach outside the box.

Since the Science Education Partnership began in 1991, more than 250 teachers have participated and the program has touched the lives of more than 115,000 students. SEP receives direct financial support from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, including funding from events such as from the Olympic Four Seasons Terry Fox Shore Run/Walk hosted by the Broadmoor-Washington Park Guild. The Washington Mutual Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and Amgen (formerly Immunex) have actively supported the program's science-kit-loan program as well.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has also been a major SEP funder since 1994. HHMI just announced a new four-year grant award of $539,000 to SEP in recognition of its excellence in science education.

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 SEP's website URL is


2003 Science Education Partnership Participants

Digital photos of most teachers can be arranged upon request.

*Denotes lead teacher


Laura Lenz, Newport High School
Camille Scalise, Chinook Middle School
Sherry Stuber*, Sammamish High School

Tim Fowler, Olympic High School

Cle Elum
Ryan Hill, Cle Elum-Roslyn High School

Rick Fillman, Edmonds-Woodway High School
Heather Neel, Serene Lake Elementary School

Mark Rosenblum, Sequoia High School

Gig Harbor
Kristin Bergh, Gig Harbor High School

Mike Fellows*, Lakewood High School
Jere Gale, Lakewood High School

Greg Ballog*, Langley High School

Mercer Island
Adam Waltzer, Mercer Island High School

Nine Mile Falls
Paul Grubbs, Phoenix High School

Port Townsend
Janice O'Reilly, Blue Heron Middle School

Andrew Schwebke*, Rogers High School
Nathaniel Whitley, Rogers High School

Sara Hagenah, Renton High School
Shannon Henry, Lindbergh High School

Toni Bukowski*, Ballard High School
Ingrid Dinter, Ingraham High School
Amy Holmes, Ballard High School
Patrick Lindsay, Holy Names Academy
Rolin Rayne, Christian Faith High School
Ellen Smith, Einstein Middle School
Christine Young, The Northwest School

Kathleen Cameron, Skills Center

West Seattle
Laura Sugden, West Seattle 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