Adapting Outreach to Remote Instruction

With support from an ASPB Plant BLOOME Grant, in the past year, we assembled a group of graduate students at the University of California, Riverside to learn how to develop educational material in line with Next Generation Science Standards and generate hands-on content for volunteers to take to schools with the unifying theme of plant response to drought, affectionately calling our group “DroughtReach”. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, our plans to test these activities in classrooms this spring were delayed.

When the pandemic hit, we reached out to our contacts in the Riverside Unified School District asking if we could help them in any way as they were adapting to remote instruction for the remainder of the school year. They said that their high school AP chemistry and biology teachers may benefit from access to some content that could be used in online learning.

Leveraging our network of graduate students with this new skill set, we assembled a two-lesson module of online activities for high school Biology or Chemistry using the modeling program NetLogo. First, Students hear from a researcher in the UC Riverside Department of Botany and Plant Sciences about a topic that relates to their research (Ligand-Receptor Kinetics or Species Interactions). Then, students investigate a NetLogo model that relates to these topics to explore them more deeply.

Meg Kargul presents research about the effects of invasive Stinknet on Stephen’s Kangaroo Rat foraging

Next, students are provided a brief introduction to some key programming ideas for modifying models in NetLogo, which can be done within their web browser. They return to the model and experiment with some changes. Finally, students are encouraged to explore other models in the NetLogo library, attempt to modify one to better reflect the real world or to test a new hypothesis.

Overall, we hope this resource might be useful for teachers who want to expose their students to the connections between their studies and work being conducted by professional plant scientists, learn about how computational modeling can be a scientific tool, and gain exposure to computer programming.

These materials can be accessed here:

The DroughtReach Project is lead by assistant professors Loralee Larios and Kinnari Atit and graduate students Meg Kargul and Alex Borowsky.

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