Building a Successful High School Biotechnology Lab Program: Tips and Strategies

Ginelle Testa

Biotechnology labs introduce students to cutting-edge scientific techniques and concepts that help them develop essential lab skills, such as pipetting, gel electrophoresis, and PCR. These skills can be valuable for students pursuing further education or careers in STEM.

Building a biotechnology lab program may be a dream of yours. It’s possible! We’ve outlined 8 tips and strategies to create a successful biotechnology program in your high school, from assembling a dream team to utilizing biotechnology virtual labs in addition to physical labs. 

1. Research and plan

Begin by researching existing biotechnology programs in high schools and gathering information on the curriculum, equipment, and resources they use. Reach out to educators or program coordinators to gather insights and advice. Innovate Bio has some great videos on creating a biotechnology lab program for high schools. Finally, create a plan that outlines your program's goals, curriculum, budget, and timeline for implementation.

2. Assemble a dream team of teachers/administrators

Assemble a diverse team of dedicated teachers, administrators, and potentially industry professionals as consultants who are passionate about biotechnology and can help with curriculum development, fundraising, and program implementation.

3. Align with college/university curriculums

Aligning high school and college curriculums ensures students are well-prepared for the rigor and content of college-level biotechnology courses. This can make the transition to higher education smoother and increase the likelihood of success in their college studies! Students who have completed college-aligned high school biotechnology programs may have a competitive advantage when applying to colleges.

4. Secure funding and resources

Research and apply for grants, scholarships, or sponsorships to help fund the program. Reach out to local biotechnology companies, research institutions, or universities for donations of equipment and supplies. Check out this Boston high school biotechnology lab program as an example funded by the Department of Defense. 

5. Create a dedicated lab space

This can be a fun part if you have the budget! Set up a dedicated biotechnology lab in your school with essential equipment and supplies, such as pipettes, centrifuges, electrophoresis apparatus, and a PCR machine. Consider factors like workstations, storage areas, and room for demonstrations or lectures. 

6. Use virtual labs

As excited as you may be about assembling a biotechnology lab program at your high school, the budget may not be as robust as you’d like. To supplement in-person labs, biotechnology virtual labs require less funding because they don't need expensive equipment, reagents, or dedicated lab space. Virtual labs also provide immediate feedback, unlimited attempts, reinforcement of concepts, and a lot of fun!

At Labster, we have a wide range of simulations, such as our Polymerase Chain Reaction virtual lab, where students will be thrown right into a crime scene where a murder has taken place. After investigating the crime scene, their first task is to collect blood samples in the hope that the murderer has left traces of their DNA.

7. Train the teachers

Teachers may or may not be ready to jump in with two feet to a biotechnology program. It’s important to provide professional development opportunities for teachers to learn biotechnology techniques and concepts, attend workshops or conferences, and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.

Did you know that Labster has a free Community Campus designed specifically for teachers and professors? It’s a great opportunity to develop your virtual simulation skills, connect with other science educators, and gain thought leadership opportunities; all while earning classroom rewards along the way. 

8. Establish partnerships with industry leaders

Collaborate with local biotechnology companies, research institutions, or universities to provide guest speakers, internships, or field trip opportunities for students. It’ll be exciting for students to see biotechnology experts in action, helping them believe that they could one day be in the field, too. 

At Labster, we have a catalog of 300+ simulations, including a variety of biotechnology virtual labs. Check out our free 30-day all-access educator’s pass. 

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