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Community Engagement Incentive Grant: Susan Riechert

Emphasizing the “E” in a STEM Outreach Project: Adding Engineering Components to the Biology in a Box Program

Susan Riechert’s Biology in a Box Program, first begun in 1993, offers an engaging solution to the lack of depth in traditional STEM education in the United States. Tennessee K-12 school systems are provided with grade-appropriate exercises and totally reusable and largely commercially-unavailable materials that reinforce math in meaningful biological contexts.

Susan Riechert

Susan Riechert

Exercises are provided in a format that teaches important biological concepts through hands-on community learning. Lessons and materials are packaged within 10 thematic units. Biology in a Box now serves approximately 80 school systems throughout the State of Tennessee, as well as 4 systems in adjacent states (Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia).

In collaboration with NIMBioS (National Institute for Mathematical & Biological Synthesis), grade-level appropriate math reinforces most exercises. All exercises, resources and materials lists are available to a world-wide audience through the project website.

Funds from this outreach/engagement incentive grant supported production of a working prototype of a new, “Biology and Engineering: Biomechanics” unit to add to the program. Elements of the unit were tested in teacher workshops over the spring and summer (2011).

Teacher curriculum and science education literature associated with the new engineering unit continue to be developed, and will be made available to the world-wide audience via the project’s website.