As schools were letting out for the summer, 23 professors and teachers from public and private universities, community colleges and Ivy League schools across the U.S. convened at 23andMe headquarters in Mountain View for the inaugural 23andMe Educators Summit.
Although they have different teaching backgrounds, they all came together with the same goal: finding the best teaching practices to engage students to learn genetics.
“Great teachers matter,” said Thao Do, PhD., 23andMe’s Education and Academia Program Manager. “They can engage a student’s curiosity long after the class ends.”
Dr. Do, who organized the summit, said the goal of bringing these professionals together was to spark creative new ideas.
“When a group of diverse, passionate educators come together, something magical happens,” she said. “They start sharing their brilliant ideas and collaboratively innovate new teaching strategies together. The excitement and energy in the room were electric. This is what great learning and teaching look like and it is such an honor to witness.”
The summit is in line with the 23andMe’s Education program’s mission, which seeks to modernize genetics education and provides free educational resources to support teachers.
As part of the Educators Summit, participants got a little lesson in what 23andMe does day to day, learning about the science behind our ancestry and health reports and about our innovative research and therapeutic efforts.
Beyond the work that is being done by 23andMe scientists, the participants also heard from four seasoned educators —Dr. David Matthes (University of Minnesota), Dr. Bryant McAllister (University of Iowa), Dr. Stuart Kim (Stanford University), and Dr. Charles Aquadro (Cornell University) — who presented their own lesson plans to the group, inspiring discussions about their teaching approaches in the classroom.
At the end of each day, the participants formed small groups to collaboratively design new lesson plans together and shared their ideas with each other.
“Attending the 23andme educators conference was an eye-opening experience for me,” said James Mitroka, professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “I learned so much about how the company takes raw SNP data and translates it into meaningful trait and ancestry results. It was great getting to learn from experienced educators about how to share with students and the public the impact of genetic testing. Also, I enjoyed just getting to know educators who have a passion for the subject on a personal basis and sharing teaching ideas with each other. Overall, it was a great experience.”
Many participants found the open group discussions the most valuable, with topics ranging from common challenges of teaching genetics to strategies on how to create new educational resources for the classroom.
The discussion didn’t just end there: The group left with plans to self-organize a Genetic Literacy Consortium to continue sharing ideas about genetics education.
If you are an educator who is interested in joining a 23andMe Educator Summit, please let us know. We’ll keep you updated as new events are announced.