As those who have been reading my blog fo awhile know, I’m on a task force attempting to get bioinformatics into high school biology (particularly AP bio) classes, and I have a series of posts about Advanced Placement Biology courses and the AP Bio exam. Of course, I’m not the only person interested in achieving this, and others have done far more than I have.
There is a nice paper in PLoS Computational Biology: A First Attempt to Bring Computational Biology into Advanced High School Biology Classrooms, that describes one attempt by researchers at University of Colorado, Boulder to get some understanding of BLAST and tree-building algorithms into high-school bio classrooms in a fairly minimal way (3 lessons of 1–2 class periods each). They provide the curriculum they used and a “post-game” analysis, where they look at what they would do differently next time, based on the successes and failure of this first attempt.
The tools and basic approach they used seem reasonable, though I question the value of teaching what an algorithm is with the “make a peanut butter sandwich” example, classic as that is. Along with the students, I wonder about the relevance to an AP Bio class. Doing the living computer exercise seems ok, but it might be better to apply it to a curriculum-relevant algorithm, such as creating a Punnett square.
This paper seems like an important resource, and so I have added it to the list I collected at Resources for bioinformatics in AP Bio. Incidentally, the authors point to this blog, but to the early post Advanced Placement Bio changes announced, rather than to the more relevant Resources for bioinformatics in AP Bio.
Note to UCSC grad students: I have some contacts with local high school bio teachers, if some of you want to try one of these outreach experiments in education, and I would be glad to facilitate meeting and planning.