"This lab changes their whole attitude of whether or not they’re the ‘type’ of person who can do science. And for young girls, that’s huge."
Like all mothers, Monica Barsever wanted to provide her children with the best education possible. Early on, she could tell her children were gifted, so she sought out new ways to challenge them and provide a more enriched education than their school could offer. This led to Monica eventually leaving her 20 year post as a fiber optics engineer to teach science at a small, all-girls private school.
In her new position, with lesson plans in-tow, Monica was ready to re-ignite a passion for science to a new generation of young girls, but quickly found limited funding for the necessary equipment and training programs would make that difficult. Determined to find a way to introduce biotech curriculum to her students, Monica heard about the Amgen Biotech Experience from a teaching mentor, and she’s been hooked ever since!
Why do you participate in the Amgen Biotech Experience?
ABE takes the mystery out of science by making it accessible to everyone, not just a certain group. It’s fantastic because I feel very strongly about girls pursuing science. All my students get something amazing out of it, and its programs like ABE that are the reason I went into teaching.
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.)
This lab is so connected to so many current topics. My students might hear about genetic engineering or GMOs in the news, and this lab really brings those topics home. They know what it means. Students always say this is their favorite lab. They find it very eye-opening, amazing and magical.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?
ABE has transformed my classroom. Students can’t truly understand science from just reading or looking at a text book, they need to actually practice it. There’s just no comparison between passive and active learning.
Can you share an example of a story where you witnessed a student ‘ah ha’ moment and begin to experience more interest in science?
Every student has some sort of moment. It’s not just for the super-smart kids, it’s for all the students. Actually, students who haven’t been interested in science before are usually the best at lab techniques. They get so excited, and this lab changes their whole attitude of whether or not they’re the ‘type’ of person who can do science. And for young girls, that’s huge.
What impact has ABE had on your students, school and community?
A former student of mine was accepted to several universities to study biochemistry. Her biggest problem right now is figuring out which college to attend, all because of this lab! This is just one example of the impact ABE has had on my students. It really empowers these young ladies!
What kind of support (i.e. professional development) do STEM teachers need to be effective and spark a love for science in their classroom?
Funding. It’s a constant conversation among science teachers – ‘how can we find new ways to teach these in-depth lessons with no budget?’ That’s why ABE is so important. We wouldn’t have these types of lab resources otherwise.
Name the three most valuable things that science teachers would get out of participating in ABE.
The networking and professional development opportunities are amazing, but I’d say the access to world-class equipment is the biggest benefit! This is something that we wouldn’t have the resources for if it wasn’t for the generosity of Amgen Foundation. I’m very grateful for that.