MCPS DNA Resource Center

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 
technology. 

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 
biotechnology.

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 
1987.

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.