Promoting Plant Biology Education at NABT 2017

ASPB Education committee member, Valerie Haywood, and Miguel Vega-Sanchez from Monsanto, stand behind a cotton and soybean plant in the ASPB Education & Outreach booth at NABT 2017.

The ASPB Education Committee hosted an Education & Outreach booth at the National Association of Biology Teachers Professional Development Conference  in St. Louis, MO this past November.  Held in the historic Union Station hotel, this year’s booth was organized by ASPB Education Committee members Valerie Haywood and Scott Woody, and Winnie Nham, ASPB Education Coordinator.

This event was a grand success, mainly due to contributions from local ASPB member-volunteers associated with Monsanto, University of Missouri, Washington University (Wash U), as well as help from West Virginia State University (WVSU) faculty attending NABT.  Our volunteers not only provided their individual expertise in plants, but also generously donated some excellent plant resources to showcase in the booth. Scott Saracco from Monsanto brought along cotton and soybean plants to display. Maria Sorkin, a graduate from Washington University, provided resources to demonstrate DNA extraction from strawberries.  Ivan Radin, also a graduate student at Wash U, supplied us with Arabidopsis and Nicotiana plants at various stages, including MS-plated Arabidopsis seedlings.  Many booth visitors commented that they had never seen a cotton or soybean plant, plants commonly used in many everyday products.  Many of the teachers visiting our booth expressed interested in using plants in the classroom, and found the small sizes of Arabidopsis and Nicotiana very appealing. The biggest hit of all was the Arabidopsis seedlings grown on MS plates. Teachers loved this idea!  Based on visitor responses and enthusiasm, we plan to develop learning modules centered around using Arabidopsis in the K-12 classroom for future education & outreach events.

Feedback from teachers and administrators has made one thing very clear… our work at these outreach events is more important now than ever.  Focus on plants in K-12 curriculum is being reduced as greater emphasis is being placed on animal systems and human health. And with budget cuts looming for the US Department of Education, teachers are searching for inexpensive options to bring science into the classroom.  The ASPB Education committee will be investigating ways to highlight the value of incorporating plant biology education into curricula,  looking for ways to facilitate the use of plants models in science education, as well as ways to educate the public about the importance of plants.    Please feel free to share your thoughts on these ideas with the ASPB education committee.  You can contact Valerie Haywood at if you have ideas you would like to share.

The NABT 2017 Exhibit hall, held in the ballroom of the historic Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO.

We would like to offer a special thanks to our volunteers for helping to make our booth a success: Beverly Agtuca (University of Missouri), Debarati Basu (Wash U), Mark Chatfield (WVSU), Dustin Potts (Monsanto), Scott Saracco (Monsanto), Maria Sorkin (Wash U),  Ivan Radin (Wash U)  Miguel Vega-Sanchez (Monsanto).

Written by Valerie Haywood, Case Western Reserve University & ASPB Education Committee Member

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