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Andrew Leakey's Laboratory

Plants iView – an after school program in plant biology


PI – Andrew Leakey (UIUC)
Co-PI – Graduate student association in the Department of Plant Biology


Funding Source:

  • ASPB Education Foundation $19K
  • Office of Public Engagement UIUC $12K


Project website:

There is increasing concern about whether the U.S. education system can produce: (a) a workforce of scientists to sustain the country‟s status as a leading intellectual and economic power; and (b) a public that is sufficiently scientifically literate to support informed participation in policy making (NAS 2007, AAMC-HHMI 2009). Failure to attract, retain and effectively train talented individuals has resulted in the education of scientists today being described as a “leaky pipeline” (Blickenstaff 2005, Adamuti-Trache and Andres 2008). This project is designed to start plugging these “leaks” at the beginning of the pipeline by accomplishing three goals: (1) engage middle school students (grades 6-8) in science through interactive plant biology themed activities as part of an after-school enrichment program, (2) provide lesson plans and web-based media that meet national science education standards from materials developed through work with participating middle school students for wider dissemination, and (3) provide a platform for graduate students and faculty members in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Department of Plant Biology to interact with and mentor middle school students to build science self-efficacy. By focusing our project on an age group which research suggests is a critical age in determining whether an interest in science will continue through the university level (Jensen and McMullen 1995), we will be maximizing the long term impact of our outreach efforts.

Plants iView was initiated by the Plant Biology Association of Graduate Students (PBAGS) at UIUC who recognized the challenges of interacting with the surrounding community to promote and communicate plant science to a general audience. Communication of science is a key element for our development as teacher-scholars, but these skills are often overlooked within formal graduate training programs. The Plants iView project closely aligns with the goals of the ASPB Education Foundation and meets the criteria outlined in the proposal call by: (1) creating an interactive learning environment for middle school students that will allow graduate students to communicate higher level concepts about plant science through small group leadership, (2) developing lesson plans and multimedia instructional supplements for small group activities in collaboration with middle school science teachers, and (3) creating a project webpage/blog for broader dissemination of inquiry-based lesson plans and materials.