K-12 Teacher-Partner Profile

Susan Curran

College/University: Cornell University
Project Title: CLIMB: Cornell's Learning Initiative in Medicine and Bioengineering
Partner School: Elmcrest School, Syracuse, NY
Years Teaching: 9
Graduate Fellow Partner(s): Philip Buskohl

How will you continue to integrate an aspect of GK-12 and your partnership with graduate students into your teaching, philosophy, etc.?

Students will gain a better understanding of the research project I conducted with my Fellow by using the same laboratory measuring tools we used and through lessons on embryonic heart development. I plan to use the Image J measuring tools that we used in the Cornell lab. Students will make their own micrographs of a specimen and then make measurements. Students will need to set the appropriate scale to assure their measurements are accurate and be able to defend their results. In the lab, we used the chick embryo as a way of understanding heart valve development under different treatments. We will incorporate our work into the classroom by allowing students to help with the same measurement techniques comparing heart valve cushion compaction before and after treatment. We will do this during our study of the circulatory system and heart function. Students will also used these measurement techniques while studying embryonic chick development by using photographs from the Cornell lab of ex-ovo embryos. They will measure and graph several stages of development. We are also planning an adopt a disease project where students will pick a disease to learn about and make comparisons throughout the year as they learn about normal biology and how it differs from their disease state.

How has the GK-12 experience changed you, and how has your participation changed the GK-12 project?

I have a much better sense of the research process. It gave me an experience in the lab that I could never have gotten any other way. It was hands-on requiring the manipulation of instruments I had never used before. I did extensive work under the microscope isolating heart valve cushions from 4.5 day chick embryos. We made a variety of measurements by photographing cushions and making area measurements to compare compaction. We also photographed cushions while vacuum pressure was applied through a micropipette to determine stress-strain data of cushion tissue. We also made a primer to use with the Polymerase chain reaction machine so we could determine how much mRNA was present in our samples. I can’t imagine anyplace that I could have gotten individualized instruction of this caliber. My graduate fellow partner was very patient and a very good teacher. I also have developed an understanding of several branches of research as a result of the lectures we were privy to including dementia and cognitive impairment, cartilage reconstruction, heart valve replacement, and drug delivery options for malignant glioma. I also have worked on understanding of how to use inquiry in teaching science. The sum-total of this experience will have a great impact on my students because I am so excited about all that is going on in research and how lucky we are to be able to share this with our students.