, Salem, MA

June 24, 2009

Grant to boost biotech classes at high school

By Amanda McGregor

SALEM — Beginning next year, Salem High students will explore DNA fingerprinting, the potential of bacteria, and the mystery surrounding the crooked cell: sickle cell anemia.

Thanks to a grant, biology and forensics students in grades nine through 12 will have new equipment and materials for biotechnology-based lessons.

"We're really excited," said Beth Hohler, a biology and forensic science teacher at Salem High who applied for the BioTeach grant from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd).

Salem High will get $8,800 for materials and equipment, and science teachers Megan Martin, Kristen Augulewicz and Hohler will go to a three-day training this summer on the new equipment and curriculum.

"They're also going to be coming in and mentoring the three of us," Hohler said, "to make sure it goes smoothly, so they are really, really supportive."

The grant will affect probably 400 to 500 students, she said.

"It provides inquiry-based, hands-on science projects that allow them to feel comfortable with biotechnology equipment and be able to use it," she said. "It's something that will affect their future, so the more they know about biotechnology and the way it works, how the body works, and cells and genetics work, the better."

Salem High is one of 15 schools in the state to receive a BioTeach grant for the coming year.

"The life sciences sector is one of the fastest-growing business sectors in the commonwealth," Lance Hartford, executive director of MassBioEd, said in a press release. "... We hope to inspire students to pursue educational opportunities and careers in the life sciences and biotechnology industry."