Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 2, is Stem Cell Awareness Day. It’s a day to celebrate stem cells, have discussions of what stem cell research is, and learn about potential benefits and disease treatments using stem cells. If you want to check for local events near you, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has a webpage summarizing events being organized in California and internationally for this special day.
To celebrate Stem Cell Awareness Day, we’ll take a look at accessible stem cell resources for K-12 that can help introduce this cutting-edge field to the next generation. Specifically, we’ll check out some freely available materials from Science Buddies, CIRM, and other sources.
Science Buddies (a non-profit in K-12 science and engineering education) has several great science fair project ideas for K-12 students related to stem cells (though I’m probably biased since I’m a scientist/writer at Science Buddies and wrote several of these projects):
- How Much Worm is a Worm? is a grades K-1 science project idea that has kids investigate the classic question of how a worm can regenerate after it’s been cut up.
- Attack of the Killer Cabbage Clones is a grades 1-2 project idea that uses cheap, readily-available materials (cabbages!) to explore cloning.
- Animal Magnetism: Do Magnets Affect Regeneration in Planaria? is a grades 9-10 project idea that uses a classic model organism of regeneration, the flatworm planaria, to explore the effects of magnetism on regeneration.
- Creating a Kidney: How Stem Cells Might be Used to Bioengineer a Vital Organ is a grades 12 and up bioinformatics (or database)-based project idea that shows students how real scientists use databases to answer real questions about stem cells, specifically how to make a stem cell turn into a certain type of kidney cell on the way to bioengineering an entire organ.
- Taking Short Cuts: How Direct Reprogramming Can Transform One Type of Cell Straight into Another is a another grades 12 and up bioinformatics-based project idea where students can explore the cutting-edge technique of direct reprogramming as they try to figure out how to make one type of cell directly turn into another.
CIRM offers an entire stem cell curriculum (five units), geared towards high school and early college students, at their Stem Cell Education Portal. Other resources are also available through the Portal.
Lastly, I recently published two biology books, and one of them, Biology Bytes: Digestible Essays on Stem Cells and Modern Medicine, serves as a broad introduction to the stem cell field, as well as other areas of modern medicine.
There’s a wide variety of other stem cell resources online that are helpful for exploring and explaining stem cell concepts to a K-12 audience, including my other blog, All Things Stem Cell, and its Visual Stem Cell Glossary. Although some stem cell concepts are truly complex and may be beyond the scope of a K-12 audience, it is never too soon to plant the seed of interest in, inquiry about, and positive support for stem cell research.
For further reading:
- All Things Stem Cell’s article “Reaching K-12: Stem Cell Awareness Day”
- Science Buddies’ website at ScienceBuddies.org
- CIRM’s webpage “Stem Cell Awareness Day 2013”
- CIRM’s webpage “Stem Cell Education Portal”
- Teisha J. Rowland’s book Biology Bytes: Digestible Essays on Stem Cells and Modern Medicine
- All Things Stem Cell’s webpage “Other Stem Cell Resources”
- All Things Stem Cell’s webpage “Visual Stem Cell Glossary”