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NCBC awards grant to MPSC

posted Tuesday March 4, 2008

Distributed by UNC News Services, February 20, 2008

The N.C. Biotechnology Center has awarded a $48,770 grant to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to support the Destiny traveling science learning program. The grant will be used for the development and implementation of “Creating a Chain Reaction,” a new curriculum module from Destiny, the planetarium’s science education outreach initiative. “Creating a Chain Reaction” will offer North Carolina high school teachers and their students a unique opportunity to explore a revolutionary biotechnology process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and to learn how it is used to detect a variety of genetic defects, including the gene that can lead to breast cancer.

Since scientist and North Carolina native Kary Mullis discovered PCR in 1983, it has become a common biotech process used in medical and biological research labs, but PCR is rarely seen or performed by students in North Carolina’s high schools.

“The Destiny program works closely with many dedicated science teachers in our state who, through the lack of necessary equipment and materials and their unfamiliarity with the process of PCR, struggle to cover this important topic in their classrooms,” said Betty Brown, project director of “Creating a Chain Reaction.” “The N.C. Biotechnology Center award will help to satisfy this particular need of so many North Carolina teachers who wish to increase their students’ understanding of biotechnology.”

“This award is an important step in our outreach efforts,” said Dr. Todd Boyette, director of the planetarium. “The N.C. Biotechnology Center’s support will enable us to provide teachers across the state with a much needed biotechnology resource, and an estimated 7,000 North Carolina students, including those in rural and underserved areas, will have the opportunity annually to examine the impact of biotechnology in daily life, work with PCR equipment on Destiny’s traveling science laboratories and explore biotech careers.”

“Given the importance of biotechnology to North Carolina’s economy, it’s critical for students and teachers to learn about its scientific foundations in engaging ways,” said Kathleen Kennedy, the Biotechnology Center’s vice president, Education & Training Programs. “And the new Destiny module should do exactly that.”

“Creating a Chain Reaction” will be launched during Destiny’s 2009 summer teacher workshop schedule. Once teachers attend workshops and learn how to implement the module into their classrooms, they will be eligible to request a Destiny school visit so their students can perform the accompanying lab exercise using PCR equipment on Destiny’s two traveling science laboratories. The equipment will be provided by Bio-Rad Laboratories.

The Destiny traveling science learning program is a science education outreach initiative of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at UNC-Chapel Hill that serves pre-college teachers and students across North Carolina. Destiny develops and delivers a standards-based, hands-on curriculum and teacher professional development with a team of educators and a fleet of vehicles that travel throughout the state.

Destiny currently has 14 modules in its curriculum portfolio that address the N.C. Standard Course of Study objectives and that are designed to enhance the teaching of North Carolina’s science educators. The modules cover topics that include the cardiovascular system; evolution and natural selection environmental toxins; and obesity.

Destiny and Discovery, two custom-built, 40-foot, 33,000-pound buses, bring the latest science and technology equipment to students who otherwise would not see a high-tech laboratory or what a career in science can offer. More than 1,500 North Carolina teachers have attended Destiny professional development workshops, and more than 250,000 students in North Carolina have benefited from Destiny’s traveling science laboratories and innovative curricula.

Created by Carolina in 2000, Destiny became a program of UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in 2006.

The N.C. Biotechnology Center is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business and education statewide.