39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
The Science in Our Food
Back to Results
Roots & Shoots’ February Guest blogger: Ruth Kaggwa, PhD., Science Education & Outreach
Mutant Millets, a Science Education and Outreach initiative of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, is transforming high school biology classrooms in the mid-west, and beyond. Launched in the fall of 2013, the program has provided scientific enrichment experiences for more than 3,000 students from over 50 public and private high schools in Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas.
The Mutant Millets program utilizes mutant populations of green foxtail millet (Setaria viridis) a C4 model plant, to enhance inquiry-based learning and introduce real science research in modern agriculture into high school and college classrooms (https://mutantmillets.org). The program is especially beneficial for the implementation of Next Generation Science Standards in schools nationwide as it provides living scientific phenomena to aid student learning. Additionally, Mutant Millets offers semester-long opportunities for hands-on scientific research to students in a unique partnership that includes teachers and scientists contributing to advancements in gene discovery for improvements in photosynthesis and biofuel production.
During the 2017 fall semester, nearly 700 high school students from 33 classes in 11 different schools across the states of Missouri (MO), Illinois (IL) and Kentucky (KY), were engaged in growing and phenotyping mutant populations of Setaria viridis provided by the Brutnell Laboratory at the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels. This semester’s participants included, Gateway Legacy Christian Academy in Illinois where 50% of the Mutant Millets participants are international students from Brazil, a global leader in production of sugar cane, a C4 grass that is also a source of biofuel.
Participant classes: (left) Gateway Legacy Christian Academy, IL; (middle) MICDS, Missouri; and Columbia High,IL (right)
Also participating during the 2017 fall semester were students from Lindbergh High School, MO; Cor Jesu Academy, MO; Columbia High, IL; Francis Howell Central High School; Bingham Middle School, MO; St Joseph’s Academy, MO; Oakville High School, MO; MICDS School, MO; Timberland High School, MO and Western Hill High School, KY. For majority of the students, participation in the Mutant Millets program provides their first hands-on scientific research experience and opportunity to learn about plants first hand and careers in plant science. Additionally, the program provides opportunities for all participant students to interact with scientists from the Danforth Center through visits to their classrooms or video conferencing for conversations about STEM careers, and the role of plant science research in improving the human condition. Numerous participant students have registered an increased awareness about STEM careers.
As participant teachers utilize the program to teach state-mandated topics in genetics, ecology and scientific inquiry, their students polish up vital skills in scientific observation, plant and environmental data collection. Consequently, several of the program’s former participant students have been assimilated into Danforth Center research laboratories as interns and research assistants. Additionally, former participants have carried out independent research projects derived from Mutant Millets and have successfully competed in state science fairs (photo A) and research symposia (photo B, below).
A: Lauren Owens, Grade 10, Maplewood Richmond Heights High School, Academy of Science - St. Louis Science Fair 2016 - Honors Division Semi –finalist.
B: Missouri Baptist University Research Symposium, 2016 poster presentation by MutantMillets participants.