Making Science Education a Priority in Orange County (NC) Schools

November 18, 2010
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It is a fact that the United States ranks 21st among 30 industrialized nations in science achievement. If we are to change this bleak statistic on a national level, local communities need to seize opportunities to bring about real change in their school districts.

Hillsborough, North Carolina, a small community located just northwest of Durham, is attempting to do just that. The district has joined forces with businesses and postsecondary partners to establish an initiative called “Biotechnology in our Schools” that is currently being implemented from kindergarten through the senior year of high school.  Biotechnology was selected as a focus since the industry currently offers some of the most lucrative job opportunities in the state.  Hillsborough’s school district is conveniently located near Research Triangle Park where many job opportunities in the fields of science and math exist, and the need for skilled workers in these areas is in high demand.

The initiative is supported by a number of business and industry advisors, including Kryosphere. Kryosphere is Research Triangle Park’s first independent biorepository, a facility which collects, processes, stores, and distributes biospecimens to a large number of clients throughout the region.

“STEM & biotechnology education is an economic development tool required for success in the rapidly changing & competitive global economy,” said Neil Jones, vice president of scientific operations at Kryosphere. “Furthermore, it’s a moral obligation which will generate a lifelong return on our investment and our children’s future.”

Since its founding in August 2009, the initiative has accomplished a great deal. It has hosted a biotechnology fair focused on middle school students, hosted a free summer Biotechnology Boot Camp for high school students, implemented an Exploring Biotechnology program at one of the region’s middle schools, made arrangements to offer Introduction to Biotechnology at the high school level, and started a realignment of grade K-8 science curriculum to emphasize bioscience concepts and skills to strengthen these skills at an earlier age.

The emphasis on the biosciences throughout all grade levels will provide a focus on opportunities for students to pursue postsecondary interests in the biosciences or enter biotechnology related careers immediately after high school. In the coming years, Hillsborough is sure to be a leader in communities promoting excellent science education in local schools.