Plant BLOOME 2021 Winners Announced

ASPB established the Plant Biology Learning Objectives, Outreach Materials, & Education (Plant BLOOME) grant program with the goal to enhance public awareness and understanding of the essential roles of plants in all areas of life ( Congratulations to the 2021 ASPB Plant BLOOME grant recipients!


The Legume-rhizobium Mutualism: A Model for Inquiry in the Classroom

PI: Michael Grillo, Loyola University of Chicago

The plant-microbe mutualism between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) is one of the most economically and ecologically significant interactions on Earth. This classic symbiosis also presents considerable potential as a K-12 classroom model for engaging students in scientific inquiry and plant biology. Most existing teaching materials involving this system are largely composed of stand-alone, cook-book style experiments with limited opportunities for authentic student investigation. The primary goal of this BLOOME project is to train high school teachers to develop, implement, and revise Next Generation Science Standards-aligned laboratory materials to complement grade 9-12 biology instructional storylines.

More and more teachers are asked to implement inquiry-based approaches in the classroom – a difficult task as most teachers have not had personal experience with inquiry and scientific research. Moreover, teachers rarely take plant specific courses and thereby have limited exposure and low-comfort levels with plant biology content. Thus, a secondary goal of this project is to provide research experience for teachers (RETs) utilizing legume-rhizobium experiments in PI-Grillo’s lab. Mentoring teachers allows the impacts of this project to have lasting benefits and reach a large and diverse population of students. This proposal greatly benefits from partnership with the NSF funded Loyola University of Chicago (LUC) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which is directed by co-PI Lara Smetana. RETs will be recruited from the LUC-Noyce Teacher Scholar alumni that currently teach high school biology in Chicago Public Schools.

During the summer of 2021, 3 RETs will conduct research in PI-Grillo’s lab and develop teaching modules that they will then implement in their classrooms. In the summer of 2022, the teaching modules will be presented at ASPB and teacher conferences, as well as publication in relevant websites and journals. While the results of this work will be disseminated broadly, this project is well suited to provide classroom materials and exposure to plants for students in Chicago Public Schools, many of whom are underserved and from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM.

Amaizing Roots: Adventures in RStudio

PI: Dior Kelley, Iowa State University

The ISU BLOOME team consists of Dr. Dior Kelley, Assistant Professor of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology (GDCB), Dr. Renu Srivastava, Assistant Teaching Professor (GDCB), and Dr. Alexis Campbell, Director of the ISU Science Bound program.

Plants are a fundamental component of a healthy and sustainable future for our world. As plant scientists we are responsible for increasing plant awareness, especially at critical educational transition points. Our collaborative female scientist team will provide hands-on plant biology laboratory experiences at Iowa State University (ISU) for underserved pre-college students in partnership with the Science Bound program during the 2021-2022 academic calendar. Through the generous support of the BLOOME grant we have designed three hands-on educational Science Bound Saturday events geared towards 8th and 9th grade students during the 2021-2022 academic calendar. Additionally, this grant will launch a new five-day campus residential program for 10th and/or 11th grade Science Bound students to be offered in summer 2022.

These educational activities will cultivate multidisciplinary research experiences for Science Bound students through hands-on involvement with microscopy, plant phenotyping and basic coding using maize root systems grown in a controlled environment system. The students will gain new knowledge about root growth and development in the “amaizing” crop, Zea mays, acquire new experience with plant growth regulators (such as auxin and cytokinin), and develop basic quantitative phenotyping skills using ImageJ and RStudio. We will use pre- and post-surveys to assess student interests in plant and/or data sciences and will track participant demographics through the Science Bound program. Because the Science Bound program works with students through 5-year precollege program and 9-years if they attend ISU we will have the ability to compile longitudinal data on the participants. Our dissemination plan to communicate these educational activities to the plant biology community will include a poster presentation at the 2022 ASPB Plant Biology conference and producing an electronic toolkit outlining the materials and methods for the hands-on activities performed. This project will be sustained through ISU funding and support via the Science Bound program and the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology.

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