Introducing AP Biology Teachers to Interactive Teaching Tools

By Rocklyn Clarke, STAR Team Discovery and Outreach Developer, OEIT

The Software Tools for Academics and Researchers (STAR) team of the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) recently collaborated with the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences (CEHS) and the MIT Museum to familiarize local high school AP Biology teachers in the Boston area with some exciting and interactive tools for teaching important biology concepts. This was part of the AP Biology Callback Series sponsored by the Harvard Medical School Office for Diversity and Community Partnership. Dr. Lourdes Alemán of the OEIT STAR Team and Dr. Kathy Vandiver of CEHS presented some of the tools developed by their respective departments.

Dr. Alemán guided the teachers through a sample exercise in which they explored the structure of aquaporin - a key protein that regulates the flow of water across cell membranes. The teachers performed hands-on analysis of this protein using StarBiochem, a web-based tool developed by the Star Team that allows for the visualization and manipulation of protein structures in a 3D environment. After this presentation, the teachers moved to a special exhibit within the MIT Museum called “Learning Lab: the Cell”. Here Dr. Vandiver guided the teachers through a sophisticated hands-on simulation of protein synthesis using LEGO models of molecules that she developed for this purpose.