From DNA fingerprinting to cloning to bio-remediation to gene therapy and
beyond, as we enter the new millennium, there is no aspect of our lives
untouched by emerging DNA technologies and associated computer technologies.
Its influence is found all around us in the daily news and popular media.
Because Montgomery County Public Schools is located in the midst of one of
the largest centers of biotechnology related industry in the world, it is
imperative that we train our teachers and prepare our students to enter a
workforce influenced by biotechnology and assume their responsibilities as
scientifically literate citizens. All students should receive instruction in
the essential concepts and techniques of molecular biology and learn about
access to training leading to careers in biotechnology.
The DNA Resource Center at Thomas S. Wootton High School is the site for a
network of teachers, trainers, researchers and community leaders committed
to developing, field testing, evaluating and replicating model programs and
supporting teachers so they may implement programs giving all students hands-
on experience with labs and access to information about opportunities in
biotechnology. The goals of the program are to:
1. Develop, field-test and evaluate programs for MCPS students and teachers
incorporating DNA content and lab technology. The site allows access
to "test" classes to try new programs and activities so they may be
replicated in science classes throughout the county.
2. Conduct in-service courses, staff-development workshops and programs in
biotechnology for teachers, staff, students and the community.
3. Form a resource center for distribution of information about molecular
biology programs and curricula, a content library, and referrals to experts
for resource or as speakers
4. Promote business and community awareness of MCPS programs in DNA
The MCPS biotechnology program for staff and students began in 1985 as six
biology teachers met at Georgetown University to modify research concepts,
techniques and equipment for implementation into pre-college classrooms.
With support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National
Institutes of Health, and local industry (such as The Institute for Genomic
Research, Edvotek, Life Technologies and PGC) the biotechnology training and
support program has grown to one of the largest teacher training, lab
activity development and equipment loan programs in the country - last year
effecting more than 15,000 student and/or teacher "hands-on" interactions in
Although its most visible core is the comprehensive equipment loan program,
there are additional aspects of the program that seem somewhat less obvious,
but are necessary to sustain and manage such an extensive program. The DRC
staff, and MCPS teachers develop curriculum and lab techniques, supply
equipment and reagents to teachers, provide staff training and information
about programs and resources in biotechnology.
The DRC program is managed by MCPS employees. Each of the employees is
an expert in delivering a component of the program, and are responsible for
its continued success.
The Biotechnology Program Manager coordinates the technical aspects
(including inventory maintenance, quality control, updating technical
expertise, etc.) of assembling and delivering the equipment and reagents to
teachers in more than twenty high schools and several middle schools. This
is the basis of providing hands-on lab activities in molecular biology.
Early in the development of the program, we recognized that the weak link in
fully incorporating biotechnology into precollege curricula was the
individual teacher's confidence in using new concepts and techniques in
classroom. The Biotechnology Teacher/Trainer, assists teachers as
they implement the activities for the first time. The Teacher/Trainer
coordinates regularly scheduled in-service training sessions
on concepts, techniques and the use of equipment.
The director of the DNA Resource Center was one of the original designers of
the program and taught the first MCPS Biotechnology Workshop for teachers in
We currently supply teachers with the training, equipment and reagents for
several labs: DNA extraction, mock DNA fingerprinting, two transformations
(pGreen and pAmp), plasmid extraction, restriction digest, Polymerase Chain
Reaction, sequencing lab. We also distribute information and train for
genomics/bioinformatics activities. We are currently beta testing a
microarray lab. We attempt to develop labs that will put us in line with
current applications in industry and research.