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PBS partners with scientific research labs for classroom

PBS Wisconsin Education has partnered with innovative science research labs in Wisconsin, to create Meet the Lab, a new online collection of educational resources for middle school science classrooms. Released this October, Meet the Lab is free to use and accessible for students in every learning environment.

Made possible through partnerships with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Morgridge Institute for Research, and Wisconsin educators and students, the Meet the Lab collection introduces middle school science classrooms to relevant, real-world issues and cutting-edge research.

The collection also highlights the human element of scientifi c research – the people working together to creatively advance their research to solve problems using science. The collection supports the National Next Generation Science Standards and creates opportunities for learners to develop their identities in the context of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

Fueled by a transformational investment from the Timothy William Trout Education Fund, a gift of Dr. Monroe and Sandra Trout, of Appleton, Meet the Lab combines the world class scientific research happening at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the power of public media, the know-how of Wisconsin educators and the curiosity of middle school students.

“Together, we have built a place for inspiration and learning, powered by curiosity,” said PBS Wisconsin director of television Jon Miskowski. “Seeing that science is fun, how it is connected to our lives and how it can help others, can be a launchpad for young people to see themselves as scientists, innovators and problem-solvers.”

The first two labs featured in the collection are the Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab, led by Melissa Skala and housed within the Morgridge Institute for Research; and the Tiny Earth Lab, originating from Jo Handelsman, who is the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, both part of UW-Madison.

The Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab develops new methods to understand and combat cancer, using photonics- based technologies. Tiny Earth works to discover new antibiotics through the soil, using a global network of students and instructors, to source samples and conduct field research.

Each featured lab’s page in the collection contains various learning media components, that are reinforced with discovery activities. Learners will watch a “why research matters” video, profiling an individual or group, impacted by the featured lab’s research, and a scientific practices video, featuring middle school students expressing their curiosity about the area of research and scientists at the featured lab.

Then, learning goals are put into practice through an interactive STEAM identity card game, featuring researchers from the two labs, and a science practices discovery activity, composed of a slide deck and data sheet, focused on how scientists use patterns in their research. Discussion prompts and an educator guide are also included.

“Meet the Lab is so well scaffolded, so middle school students can understand,” said Jeanine Gelhaus, an educator from the Medford Area Middle School, who was involved in the development and testing of the resource, featuring the Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab. “They will understand a bit about cells, healthy and unhealthy. Most importantly, they will understand the career aspects of someone who might select this field of study in the future and what that might look like.”

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