Washington University to offer master of science degree for biology teachers

New program for educators developed as National Science Foundation institute

Washington University in St. Louis will offer a master of science in biology degree specifically for in-service teachers through University College, its adult, evening and continuing education division in Arts & Sciences.

WUSTL faculty created and piloted the degree with 90 biology teachers nationwide as a National Science Foundation teacher institute.

Barbara Schaal, PhD, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in biology in Arts & Sciences, and Victoria L. May, assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, used a blend of current research in life sciences and in education to design the program.

Schaal, a leading researcher in the nutrition and evolution of plant crops, also is the vice president of the National Academy of Sciences and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Her interest in helping all students understand the interconnectedness of living systems led to her involvement with the program.

The biology department faculty members who teach in the program integrate their own related current research to apply scientific importance of scientific issues to the global community.

“In the middle of the H1N1 epidemic, the scientific understanding of the virus was changing daily, which made the class’ discussion of the evolution of flu viruses particularly relevant,” Schaal says.

The two-year program — designed to fit the schedules of working teachers — will consist of two summer institutes, three weeks each, in residence at Washington University. The remaining coursework during the academic years will be completed online. Summer housing is available for out-of-town students.

MS Biology

David Kilper

Tiffany Knight, PhD (right), associate professor of biology, talks with Travis Plume, a biology teacher at Belle High School in Belle, Mo.

The degree program will be offered in alternating years, beginning with summer 2011.

Teachers in the program continue working together throughout the summer and through the online courses, using social media to develop a professional networking group.

“Working with colleagues is an especially powerful support for teachers, who can feel isolated in the classroom,” May says. “The MS in biology program facilitates interaction among teachers, which we know can encourage change in classroom practice and growth as a professional.”

Teachers interested in the program must submit applications through University College. For more information, visit ucollege.wustl.edu or call (314) 935-6700.

About University College

Originally founded in 1853 to serve the diverse educational needs of the St. Louis area, Washington University continues to grow and thrive more than 150 years later. The first educational step of the fledgling university, on Oct. 22, 1854, was to establish an evening program. Washington University Extension, addressing the needs of local teachers, was begun in 1908, and, after much expansion and diversification, became University College in 1931. Then and since, people of all ages attend Washington University through University College, earning associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, or certificates, or taking courses for personal enrichment. For more information about University College, visit ucollege.wustl.edu or call (314) 935-6700.

About Science Outreach

Washington University in St. Louis works with K-12 teachers and students in science, technology, engineering and math through its Science Outreach program. Partnerships with local schools support district initiatives by connecting educational research with classroom practice. Programs include summer camps and research, enrichments and field trips for students; and summer research, seminars, graduate courses and degree programs for educators. For more information, visit so.wustl.edu.