CityLab received a $1.3 million NIH SEPA grant to develop a new curriculum supplement that uses hands-on laboratory investigations of genome editing to expand CityLab’s “Mystery of the Crooked Cell” (MCC) and create MCC 2.0.

The MCC curriculum supplement, which focuses on the molecular basis of sickle cell disease, will be substantially expanded to create MCC 2.0 by incorporating gene editing as cutting-edge science content, socioscientific reasoning (SSR) as a pedagogical strategy for exploration of bioethical and diversity topics, and engaging digital media technologies. The curriculum will be implemented first at CityLab’s SummerLab program. In subsequent years, MCC 2.0 will be tested at CityLab, on the MobileLab, and at partner sites. Through this effort, CityLab will develop, pilot-test, refine, and disseminate MCC 2.0, a groundbreaking approach that will lead students to develop important science understanding, SSR skills, and attitudes and behaviors that promote diversity in STEM. CityLab will examine the impact of MCC 2.0 on fostering students’ science learner identity (SLI) as a measure of engagement in STEM. Ultimately, this SEPA project will develop and disseminate an innovative curricular approach to expand the diversity of the biomedical science workforce.

Specific Aims of the Grant

1.    build, implement, and disseminate MCC 2.0, a new laboratory-based SSR curriculum by expanding MCC to incorporate new lab techniques (such as restriction enzyme digests, PCR, and CRISPR), digital hands-on experiences (such as immersive games, augmented/virtual reality simulations, and the Case It! computer simulations of lab assays developed at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls), and explorations of the ethics of gene editing. MCC 2.0 will integrate issues of historical bias in science and medicine to raise awareness of attitudes and practices that promote equity, inclusion, and diversity in STEM. Throughout the development and pilot-testing phases, we will work closely with practicing science teachers to ensure that this innovative unit can be easily integrated into classes and meets the NGSS “High-Quality Design” criteria. After testing and refinement, we will begin national dissemination to encourage science educators to use this innovative unit in their classes. We will develop and share materials for use in face-to-face classes and online settings.

2.    use a well-matched comparison design to investigate the impact of the SSR curriculum on promoting science content understanding and increased SLI in diverse populations of students. We will determine whether the length of exposure to the SSR approach leads to changes in SLI and in attitudes towards diversity and inclusion that predispose students towards continued STEM education and, eventually, STEM careers. We will conduct a longitudinal study of participants to assess the extent to which this seminal STEM experience is associated with post-secondary education paths.