If A Starfish Can Grow A New Arm, Why Can't I? Partnership Background Information
National Center for Research Resources, A Component of the National Institutes of Health, Awards Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative $1.26 Million to Develop Carnegie Science Center Interactive, Tissue Engineering Exhibit
The Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, Inc. (PTEI) has been awarded a 5-year Science Education Grant Award from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop a unique educational program focused on engaging middle school students, their teachers, and the general public in the wonders of tissue engineering and its applications. Specifically, this project provides support for an inquiry-based, permanent, 1,200-square-foot exhibit on Tissue Engineering/Regenerative Medicine at the Carnegie Science Center (CSC) in Pittsburgh, PA as well as in 4 to 5 other science centers across the U.S. The exhibit primarily targets middle-school (6th-8th) grade students and their teachers and focuses on the theme, "If a Starfish Can Grow a New Arm, Why Can't I?" The interactive exhibit aims to make visitors aware of the field and promise of tissue engineering as well as highlight the significant strides Pittsburgh-based researchers are making within the field in order that they may be exposed to cutting-edge research in their own backyard. This exhibit will be provide a cutting-edge extension to the Carnegie Science Center’s basic science and sport and body concentration area.
A major thrust of the exhibit will be responding to the “Why Can’t I?” dilemma by demonstrating that through one of today’s newest areas of biomedical science--tissue engineering--scientists and engineers are learning to tap into the hidden regenerative ability in humans. The underlying basics of the science and technology of tissue engineering will be provided along with an outlook for the future. Balanced with this will be a sensitive exploration of the ethical issues, myths, and misconceptions that currently surround the field.
The $1.26 million Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) is made to PTEI through the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), which was designed to improve life science literacy across the U.S. These grants bring together biomedical and behavioral researchers, educators, community groups, and other interested organizations in partnerships to create and disseminate programs that give K-12 students and teachers and the general public a better understanding of life sciences.
PTEI’s key partners in this project include the Carnegie Science Center, ASSET, and the University of Pittsburgh learning Research and Development Center. “We’ve set out an innovative plan, bridging informal and formal learning environments, to develop new ways to excite interest and explain key science and engineering concepts related to the field of tissue engineering to students, teachers, and the public-at-large,” says Joan Schanck, PTEI Director of Education and Principal Investigator for the project. In addition to development and realization of the Starfish exhibit, which will debut in Pittsburgh in 2009 before traveling to other science museums across the U.S. and worldwide, the project’s 5-year timeline includes development of web-based development and distribution of educational materials, workshops, and an outreach program that will target K-12 youth in underrepresented and under-served rural and inner city communities.
Joan Schanck explains the development of this project as spurred by:
--increasing levels of popular interest in tissue engineering,
--the wide breadth of tissue engineering related research being conducted in our own backyard,
--how it can be used to improve the health and quality of life for us all,
--the bioethical considerations this promising new field presents, and
--an increased need to provide accurate information in order to dispel misconceptions and misinformation.
Because the material to be communicated is inherently complex and highly interdisciplinary - due to the nature of tissue engineering itself as well as the technologies used to study it - there is a particular need to present this information in an exciting and accessible format. Critically, because many of the key concepts in tissue engineering are also related to the big science concepts students are required to learn in the classroom, a contemporary, application-based approach related to telling the tale of tissue engineering will help students make important connections across the sciences as well as appreciate real-world applications. In the end, deep learning occurs when one can appreciate the applications of knowledge gained. When presented within a problem-solving, real world-based context, students become more engaged and are more likely to deploy the skills and concepts they learned.