STEM Outreach – Windows into Development

Posted On: Thursday, January 19, 2017

Guest post contributed by Dr. Scott Weatherbee, Yale University

Yale coordinates its pre-college science through a program titled “Pathways to Science”. The goal of this STEM outreach program is to provide educational opportunities for New Haven Public School students that encourage and support them to pursue STEM careers. Some examples of Pathways events include Brain Education Day and Chemistry Open House, but one area that was lacking in the Pathways repertoire was Developmental Biology. Developmental Biology is an extremely visual science that is both conceptually accessible to young students and also aesthetically appealing. Even so, most students are not exposed to Developmental Biology until they become Biology majors in college. As a latecomer to the field myself, I wanted to change this.

In conjunction with Pathways program staff, I developed a Developmental Biology program entitled “Windows into Development”. The program begins with a brief lecture to introduce the students to the field of Developmental Biology and why it’s relevant to the general population. The lecture is followed by hands-on interactions with model organisms including chicken embryos, C. elegans, Drosophila, mice, Xenopus, and zebrafish. At the end of the day, students bud off into small groups to discuss what they learned.

A key concept that we introduce to the students during our program is the use of reporters/transgenes to follow gene expression in embryos, and one of the most exciting examples of reporters are GFP-expressing organisms. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an easy way to make fluorescent microscopes available for this program. Luckily, NIGHTSEA allowed us to borrow three stereo microscope fluorescence adapter systems for Windows into Development. We used Tg(kdrl:gfp) transgenic zebrafish to look at the vasculature. The students were excited and amazed that they could see the blood vessels of live fish.

Choi, J., Dong, L., Ahn, J., Dao, D., Hammerschmidt, M., and Chen, J.N. (2007a). FoxH1 negatively modulates flk1 gene expression and vascular formation in zebrafish. Developmental biology 304, 735-744.



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