Discovery Files

Teaching CRISPR and antibiotic resistance to high school students

BioBits Health brings hands-on, low-cost, high-tech synthetic biology into the classroom

A Northwestern University-led team funded by the National Science Foundation has developed BioBits, a suite of hands-on educational kits that enable students to perform a range of biological experiments by adding water and simple reagents to freeze-dried cell-free reactions.

The kits link complex biological concepts to visual, fluorescent readouts, and students know -- after a few hours and with a single glance -- the results of their experiments.

After launching BioBits last summer, the researchers are now expanding the kit to include modules for CRISPR and antibiotic resistance. A small group of Chicago-area teachers and high school students just completed the first pilot study for these new modules, which include interactive experiments and supplementary materials to explore ethics and strategies.

"This is important work that helps students understand biological concepts such as how genetics maintain continuity while allowing for change," said Devaki Bhaya, a program director in NSF's Division of Molecular and Cellular Bioscience.

"We need more pilot projects like this to inspire students who can advance our understanding of life processes."