ABE: Expanding Horizons, Increasing Students' Enthusiasm


ABE: Expanding Horizons, Increasing Students' Enthusiasm
ABE gives students the confidence that they belong in science.
Headshot for Wendy Wooten

Dr. Wendy Wooten always knew she wanted to go into academia and got an earlier start to teaching than most while she was working towards her Ph.D. at UCLA. Wendy started out as a teaching assistant, overseeing UCLA lab sections and writing a new lab manual, but that eventually led to leading lectures for entry and upper division biology courses. 

After a decade of teaching at the university level, Wendy did a ‘180,’ opting to take over an afternoon-kindergarten classroom for a year, before moving onto the high school level, in order to have a similar schedule to her two daughters. Observing that her high school students were just as curious as her UCLA students to learn more about how the world works, Wendy signed up to bring ABE to her high school to help her students grow intellectually.

Why do you participate in the Amgen Biotech Experience?

The kids love it because they're doing something meaningful and authentic. It excites them about doing research and getting more training and more opportunities, which expands their horizons and motivates them academically.

How has the Amgen Biotech Experience helped to engage your students in new ways (e.g., hands-on laboratory experience, good curriculum, classroom tools/resources etc.)?

It makes them want to do science. My students are actually eager to come to class because of the labs. ABE really increases their enthusiasm.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?

ABE makes teaching way more gratifying and fun! Rather than teaching the 'cook book' experience of science straight out of a text book, I can really see the kids take to science and love it with the labs.

Can you share an example of a story where you witnessed a student ‘ah ha’ moment and begin to experience more interest in science?

ABE makes the kids feel special – like they’re real scientists. Thanks to ABE, one of my students from last year ended up applying to a medical research program at Stanford University, and is now a freshmen there!

What impact has ABE had on your students, school and community?

With the way the funding works, there's no way students would have this opportunity without the Amgen Foundation. ABE gives students the confidence that they belong in science. Now kids are more eager to do summer internships or participate in volunteer opportunities in research labs. In the past they'd never consider that

What kind of support (i.e. professional development) do STEM teachers need to be effective and spark a love for science in their classroom?

Teachers need programs like ABE where we can get the students practicing authentic research projects and protocols, so they feel that this is something they want to do in their future. Most students wouldn't consider biotech unless they’ve had this experience.

Name the three most valuable things that science teachers would get out of participating in ABE.

Student engagement and enthusiasm is a big one. The classroom becomes a more exciting place for the students and the teacher. ABE is the biggest factor that has led to various accomplishments that my students have achieved.

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