The BioEYES program uses
live zebrafish to teach basic scientific principles, animal development,
and genetics. The zebrafish embryo is clear, making it ideal for
A first-of-its-kind study on almost 20,000 K-12 underrepresented
public school students shows that Project BioEYES, based at Carnegie's
Department of Embryology, is effective at increasing students' science
knowledge and positive attitudes about science. Younger students had the
greatest attitude changes.
‘Project BioEYES is effective at increasing students' science knowledge and positive attitudes about science. Younger students had the greatest attitude changes.
The study covered five years and tested
students before and after the one-week BioEYES program. The research is
published in the PLOS Biology
Each BioEYES Center reflects a partnership between local
educators, school districts, and cutting-edge scientific laboratories
like that of Steve Farber, co-founder of the program.
This collaboration empowers the students to approach science just as
a professional scientist would. The program provides scientific
equipment and teaches concepts that are relevant to students' lives. In
this case, inner-city students learn about the inheritance of skin color
from a biological perspective.
Over the course of a week, students collect zebrafish embryos and
watch them develop from a single cell to a swimming larva complete with a
beating heart and a distinct pigmentation pattern. Elementary students
learn about human and fish anatomy, habitats, cells, and DNA.
students identify the observable traits of their zebrafish offspring
(middle school) or delve into the ways modern scientists determine the
genetic makeup of parents by studying their offspring (high school). At
week's end, students analyze these data and discuss their results with
their fellow students, much the way real scientists do.
For the five-year study (2010-2015) reported in PLOS Biology
the BioEYES team assessed students and teachers before and after a
week long experiment. They asked students to answer knowledge-based
questions as well as questions about their attitudes toward science and
scientific careers. Following a BioEYES experience, all grade levels
showed significant positive gains in learning. Seven of the eight
knowledge questions had significant positive gains for elementary
At the middle school level, eight of the nine knowledge
questions had significant positive gains. Some middle school questions
that showed the greatest gains involved concepts in genetics with
changes from 72 - 87% depending on the question. The high school
questions with the greatest gains were about characteristics of model
organisms with a 64% change and stem cells with a 56% change.
Interestingly, for all grade levels BioEYES increased students'
ability to imagine themselves as scientists. The largest effect on
attitudes occurred at the elementary school level - six out of 11
statements showed significant positive changes. Among all grade levels,
the strongest attitude shift was in the statement, "I know what it's
like to be a scientist."
The second largest attitude change observed in elementary and high
school grades, and the third largest in middle school, was an increase
in agreement with the statement, "Science is becoming more popular than
it used to be."
Co-founder Farber remarked, "We think educators can leverage this
finding in a big way. We think this result shows that BioEYES was fun
and engaging for everyone in the class. We know how important popularity
is to the social lives of kids. So if the science experience is fun,
engaging, and popular, more underserved students could be attracted to
the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields."
Farber started BioEYES with educator Jamie Shuda at the University
of Pennsylvania and brought BioEYES to Carnegie in 2007. Some 100,000
students have participated in the outreach effort. Additionally, some
1,300 teachers in six states and two countries (the U.S. and Australia)
have been trained to teach the course.
"It turns out that our efforts in training teachers have made a huge
impact," Farber said. "We see that the program increases their
confidence to create innovative and engaging science lessons, which
affects many more students beyond BioEYES. Using BioEYES to reach a
large population of underserved students can help spark their interest
in research and hopefully encourage them to explore college and other
STEM career options. While much of time I am exploring questions
relating to how cells process fats and related molecules, I feel
immensely lucky to have created a program that has reached so many and
to be part of an institution like Carnegie that takes seriously its role
in inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders."