2008 BeeSpace Summer Learning Workshop

EdWeek 08: The Week in Brief

6/28/2008  6:00 pm

2007 BeeSpace Learning Week participants suit up

Mix world-class scientists, fourteen enthusiastic young students, and a vexing research puzzle of global importance, and the result can be a high-interest week of summer workshop activities at the leading edge of biological inquiry. That is the recipe for a weeklong educational workshop hosted by the BeeSpace Project at the University of Illinois, in July 2008.

The puzzle bringing focus to the BeeSpace Summer Learning Workshop is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – the disappearance of entire colonies of adult bees from their hives in large sections of the United States and elsewhere, without warning and without evident cause – which first became recognized as an agricultural threat in early 2007. Through activities involving honey bee dissection, pollinator observation, the study of genomic biology, and examinations of social insect behavior, the fourteen learners participating in the weeklong camp, all students at University High School, will meet leading research scientists and use bioinformatics tools to discover the state of knowledge concerning CCD, and to inquire into possible causes of this vexing problem. At the same time, participants will learn in detail about how research biologists are using new information tools, including the honey bee genome, to discover the genetic bases for insect social behaviors.

The BeeSpace project has set for itself an educational mission offering benefits for students from middle school through graduate school. This is the second year that BeeSpace is offering a summer workshop.

Learners participating in the workshop will gather at the University’s Institute for Genomic Biology each day from July 7-11 for three-hour sessions led by Nick Naeger, a doctoral student working in Robinson honey bee lab of at the University of Illinois. Leading informational sessions during the workshop week will be BeeSpace lead investigators Professors Bruce Schatz (UIUC, Medical Informatics), Gene Robinson (UIUC, Entomology), and Susan Fahrbach (Wake Forest University, Biology), along with doctoral student Reed Johnson (UIUC, Entomology). Also assisting will be University High School biology teacher David Stone, himself a trained entomologist, and BeeSpace coordinator Jim Buell. Mr. Stone will also lead afternoon sessions at the high school during the week, in which workshop participants will investigate ways to apply and extend their learning by preparing for science competitions. Over the course of the workshop, Buell and BeeSpace investigator Chip Bruce will be researching how this educational model can promote development of participants' science knowledge.

Overall, the weeklong BeeSpace Summer Learning Workshop offers a set of inquiry-based learning opportunities that will serve as a spur to the students' continued explorations of genomic biology, insect social behavior, and bioinformatics.