A typical San Diego science teacher’s annual budget is $3 per student per year, but a modern science lab from major educational distributors costs teachers an average of $100 per class. Implementing just one lab would exhaust a teacher’s budget for the entire year. Through support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, ScienceBridge has piloted a practical, innovative, and sustainable solution by transforming high school biotechnology classes into laboratory kit production operations called Tech Sites.
By producing ScienceBridge materials in-house, costs can be reduced to $10-15 per kit, although this was covered by the grant, so teachers received kits at no cost. An added benefit is the direct experience for the students. Unlike learning about the biotech industry from textbooks, students become part of an integrated biotech facility, producing kits for their entire district. Students take responsibility for every step of the production process, including assembly, reagent production, logistics, inventory management, and customer support. Students must hone their laboratory and problem-solving skills in the context of real-world scenarios, and they are held accountable for quality control. The course doesn’t simulate a production company; it is a production company. The current Tech Sites at Mira Mesa, Castle Park, and San Ysidro High Schools produce a total of four types of ScienceBridge lab kits that facilitate nearly 40,000 student interactions annually.
ScienceBridge's unique training model strives to create connections between teachers and scientists, increase teachers’ and students’ access to current scientific information and resources, and encourages the engagement of students as leaders in the classroom. Each ScienceBridge teacher is trained to use the materials and lab protocol created at UCSD. Teachers bring a handful of students from their science classrooms who will also learn to use the resources, and will serve as teaching assistants and resident “experts” in the classroom during activity implementation. All student and teacher input is encouraged and considered at all times, so our training sessions, curriculum, and resources are the most effective and useful to the audience. There is currently no funding for new teacher training, but currently trained teachers continue to access materials via the tech site program.