Science Teachers go to 'Summer School' at Fred Hutchinson

SEATTLE — July 12, 2005 — More than two-dozen science teachers from Washington — and two all the way from Singapore — are spending part of their vacation at "summer school," working beside scientists in research laboratories at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and several other partner sites throughout Seattle. The summer workshop, which runs now through July 27, will host teachers from more than two-dozen communities throughout the state and abroad.

"Our goal is for teachers to bring back what they learn over the summer to help jump-start their students' knowledge of bioscience and research and perhaps kindle their interest in jobs or careers in science," said Nancy Hutchison, Ph.D., director of the Hutchinson Center's Science Education Partnership program.

"Nurturing the next generation of scientists by providing valuable professional development for science teachers can only help boost economic development in the state's biotechnology and biomedical-research sectors," Hutchinson said, "particularly in light of the recently authorized Life Sciences Discovery Fund."

The Life Sciences Discovery Fund, signed into legislation in May, will use $350 million in tobacco-settlement funds, along with matching non-state funds, to support leading-edge research throughout Washington to cure debilitating diseases and improve the quality and yield of agricultural crops.

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," Hutchinson said. "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 corporate biotechnology firms Amgen and Zymogenetics, as well as Pacific Northwest Research Institute, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Washington Genome Sciences Department and the joint UW/Hutchinson Center Molecular and Cellular Biology doctoral research program.

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 12,000 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 320 teachers have participated and the program has touched the lives of more than 150,000 students.

SEP receives direct financial support from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Amgen Foundation.

Editor's Note
For more information or to arrange an interview or lab visit, please call Kristen Woodward, (206) 667-5095. Digital photos of most teachers can be arranged upon request. SEP's Web address is


2005 Science Education Partnership Participants

Digital photos of most teachers can be arranged upon request

*Denotes lead teacher


City Name Educational Institute
Bellevue Ryan Gunhold City University
Blaine Bethany Flint Blaine High School
Bremerton James Ogden Renaissance Alternative High School
Edmonds Melissa Geri Edmonds Homeschool Resource
Everett Ryan Kyler Explorer Middle School
Ferndale Cathy Schuman Ferndale High School
Friday Harbor Alana Hysert Friday Harbor Laboratory
Issaquah Linda Sorenson Issaquah High School
Kent Samantha Ketover Kentridge High School
Kirkland Timothy McFaul International Community School
Lakewood Mike Fellows* Lakewood High School
Langley Greg Ballog* South Whidbey High School
Lynnwood Susan Russell Lynwood High School
Marysville Holly McCaffree Marysville-Pilchuck High School
Poulsbo Suzanne Piper* North Kitsap High School
Renton Oliver Jones Lindbergh High School
Seattle Heidi Dullum* Nathan Hale High School
Seattle Monique Gisser West Seattle High School
Seattle Kirsten Rooks Lake Washington Girls Middle School
Seattle Darrel Tanaka Washington Middle School
Shoreline Barbara Steffens Shorecrest High School
Silverdale Rebecca Arthur Central Kitsap High School
South Hill Rebecca Ogden Emerald Ridge High School
Spanaway Marcus Douglas Challenger Alternative Secondary
Tumwater Tomme Trikosko Tumwater High School
Yakima Aram Langhans* Naches Valley High School


Name Educational Institute
Jismyl Ang Temasek Junior College
Wee Suat Hwa Siglad Secondary School

Media Contact
Kristen Woodward
(206) 667-5095

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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