Lab experience for schools

A US$4 million grant to boost biology education in nine USA and two European communities was recently announced by the Amgen Foundation’s Amgen Biotech Experience (ABE), a science education programme managed by EDC (a long-time promoter of science education and the use of latest technology in learning). The new grant will help provide secondary school students experience with real-world biotech lab conditions. ABE brings laboratory experience to students in classrooms across the USA, including Puerto Rico; the UK; and Ireland. The new investment is expected to reach 150,000 new students over the next two years.

To date, nearly US$600,000 has supported the programme in the UK and nearly US$300,000 has supported the more recent programme in Ireland. Funds to support the programme cover personnel to lead it, as well as train teachers, along with research-grade equipment and consumables to run the programme in classrooms, and for professional development Institutes to train new and continuing teachers.

The grantees (the universities running the programme in the UK and Ireland) make the decisions where to purchase the suite of equipment needed to run the programme, not the schools or teachers that implement the programme in biology classrooms. The exact equipment purchased will vary by site based on district, state/country regulations and other considerations.

“At a high level, we aim to give all students the opportunity to experience real science at their fingertips – to strengthen their understanding and appreciation of science and biotechnology and the role they play in their lives – as well as to inspire tomorrow’s scientists,” says Scott Heimlich, vice president of the Amgen Foundation. “So it’s access to an opportunity in your own classroom that both deepens scientific literacy and competencies, as well as encourages the pursuit of scientific degrees and career.”

The ABE programme engages students in learning molecular biology using relevant curricula, tools and techniques. Participating teachers receive a loaned kit with research-grade equipment and supplies to enable students to participate in advanced science laboratories. The hands-on ABE curriculum ties the laboratory experiences to the development of medicines, using technologies employed by the biotechnology industry in the discovery of human therapeutics. Since the programme's inception in 1990, ABE has reached over 425,000 students. 

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