When science educators Stephen Harris and Marissa Bellino held weekend field research sessions around New York City for public high-school students, every student in the class would show up, and even kids who performed poorly in other classes did excellent work.
"It was all about giving them the right space to work and getting them excited," said Harris, who explains that the students did actual scientific research, collecting biological samples locally and then subjecting them to microbiological research techniques.
Those techniques allowed them to generate DNA barcode identifiers using short segments of DNA, and formulate their own research questions based on their DNA barcode analyses, said Harris, a Ph.D. candidate in evolutionary biology at City University of New York. "Sometimes the students who usually performed poorly academically did the best science in the group." Because of its effectiveness at drawing in young students of all types and exposing them to the process of actual scientific research, the curriculum developed by Harris and Bellino, known as the Student Barcoding Project, has been selected to win the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.
Congratulations to Drs. Harris and Bellino and their students!