Workshop Recap: Alu PCR for a New Generation

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s Barbara’s Jumping Genes!
Bringing Scientific Spotlights and NGSS to an old favorite: Alu PCR

On Saturday December 8, 2018 twenty-four teachers from across the bay gathered to see our new NGSS updates to this classic classroom PCR lab activity.  We explored Barbara McClintock’s Nobel Prize winning work on Jumping Genes as an anchoring phenomenon for learning about common non-coding regions in everyone’s DNA called Alu Transposable Elements.  See the new curricula here.

The workshop was conducted by Debbie Clark, who teaches biology and biotechnology at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo. She introduced our new Lesson Plan which walks through all the detailed steps needed to teach this activity in an easy and straightforward way, so that it is accessible to all kinds of teachers and learners!

Feedback from teachers after the workshop:

“The workshop on Saturday was easily one of the best I have ever attended.”
“You always give great presentations!”
“I will recommend similar BABEC events to my colleagues with great enthusiasm!”
“Excellent workshop. I attended the last one too, and look forward to the next one”
“This curriculum will be perfect following heredity and going into evolution”
“Depth, pacing, and pedagogical techniques all seemed on point”
“Good modeling teaching technique”

Kristen WolslegelWorkshop Recap: Alu PCR for a New Generation

Workshop Recap: Promoting the Next Generation of Genetic Engineers

Bacterial Transformation & Protein Purification for All Levels of Students!

On Saturday November 3, 2018 twenty-eight teachers from across the bay gathered to get a sneak-peak of our new NGSS update to this introductory biotech activity for all levels of students. Attendees were excited about the variety of offerings for this lab. BABEC now offers two approaches to bacterial transformation: an introductory version where GFP gene is always “on”, and an advanced version that required induction with arabinose.  We are also offering several new colors to liven up the party!  See the new curricula here

The workshop was taught by Elizabeth Doggett, who teaches biology and biotechnology at San Mateo High School.  She walked attendees through the process of building a model and explain the phenomenon for how recombinant DNA technology works in a simple and approachable way.

Feedback from teachers after the workshop:

“Really appreciate the language scaffolds”
“Like the use of NGSS SEPs and anchoring phenomena and teacher guidelines for timing”
“Great job making curricula that is accessible for ALL students!  Can’t wait to do the scientific modeling!”
“Very student-friendly updates to the curriculum and student handouts”
“I really appreciated the model as an assessment of understanding”
“Not only was the new lesson more manageable for me as a teacher, but it is also more accessible to a lot of students at different academic ability”
“I really like the improvements on the labs – much better for EL students”

Kristen WolslegelWorkshop Recap: Promoting the Next Generation of Genetic Engineers

Fall 2018 Kickoff

Saturdays are precious for so many of us! Following a full work week, we need downtime to recharge and prepare for the work ahead; we like to spend time doing fun activities with family & friends.

So it’s telling that even though the BABEC Fall Kickoff was on a Saturday, we had a packed house for the event consisting of high-school teachers, community college instructors, administrators and science educator supporters from across the Bay Area. From networking with colleagues, to learning about Scientist Spotlights, to seeing the recent updates to the BABEC curriculum and getting strategies for how to incorporate it into their classrooms, and meeting the BABEC 2.0 team – the event was one that many were glad they didn’t miss!

See the full event recap here, with full videos of speakers! 


You can find a recap of the Fall 2018 Kickoff.

Kristen WolslegelFall 2018 Kickoff

Spotlight on BABEC Teacher in Residence – Alton Lee

For the average person, a “teacher” is someone who is restricted to a classroom, delivering knowledge in a structured format that is assessed through exams or activities. What is rarely seen is the work that happens outside the classroom, preparing lesson plans as well as adapting ideas and curriculum to meet learning goals. BABEC relies on a close partnership with teachers to advance our mission of inspiring all students to engage in science. It is because of this that this past summer, our first teacher-in-residence joined the BABEC team.

What exactly is a teacher-in-residence? Meet Alton Lee and learn more about how he is blazing the trail for this new position.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am starting my 12th year in the classroom in the Fall, and I currently work at Woodside High School near Redwood City – where I teach Biology and Chemistry.  I previously worked at Mission High School in San Francisco, where I taught Chemistry, Principles of Biotechnology, and Physics; and Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, where I taught Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science.

My family and I immigrated to San Francisco when I was eight, and I have lived here ever since.  My bachelor’s and master’s degrees are both from UC Berkeley.  My bachelor’s degree was in Psychology & Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) – although my slant towards MCB was more molecular. My master’s degree was in Education, and my initial teaching credential was only in chemistry – since, at the time, I did not think I would ever teach biology.

My first experience with BABEC was in 2006 as a student teacher in a chemistry classroom.  One of my teaching supervisors, who also worked for BABEC at the time, was doing a workshop on a new lab involving rainbow protein purification.  We started out with bacteria transformed with plasmids containing genes for different fluorescent proteins, and we would lyse the bacteria and isolate the proteins using an affinity chromatography column.  Perfect – my cup of tea.  I did the lab in the class I student-taught but thought that I would never do this lab (or another BABEC lab) with students again.

That changed after about 6 months into my first job.  I was hired to teach chemistry and be part of the Health Academy.  There was no health-related content course connected to the academy.  A biotechnology course became a possibility – partly because there had been one at the school several years prior, and partly because there were schools teaching biotech courses elsewhere in the district.  That (re-)started a biotech course that continued for 7 years – outliving the Health Academy that was its impetus.

Teaching biotech changed me as an educator and a learner.  It forced me to learn biology that I ignored as an undergraduate; I was learning it so that I can help my students build connections they never thought existed.  It has helped me (re-)imagine what a 9th grade biology class can look like.  It helped me situate chemistry, physics, and environmental science within a high school science program.  In my spare time, I volunteer, cook, and travel.  As of the end of August, I have visited 32 states and 9 countries.

2) What is your role as a teacher in residence with BABEC? How do you interact with the rest of the team?
The team consults with me when they need a teacher’s perspective on an issue.  As we were streamlining the portable supply kits for San Mateo County BABEC teachers, I would either suggest changes to the portables or be asked my opinions about different changes.   It was all hands on deck when the entire BABEC team cleaned, serviced, rearranged, and restocked different components in the portables to get them ready for this year! The team also consulted me as they were making changes to different lab protocols, while I was working on rewriting BABEC curriculum and thinking long-term about what other curriculum materials will be of interest to teachers and students.

3) Why would working with an organization like BABEC be of interest to a high school science teacher?
I think that a teacher working for BABEC is, essentially, a mutualistic relationship.  As a consumer of BABEC’s reagents and curriculum materials, I have had my own opinions, optimizations, and customizations. BABEC, as curriculum gets worked on, needs feedback from different stakeholders – including teachers.  Ideally, teachers and BABEC staff foster a productive working relationship where teachers give feedback that results in iterative refinements to curriculum – which teachers turn around and use for their students.  Ultimately, students benefit – and not just my students, if I do my job right.

4) What has been the most interesting experience you have had at BABEC so far?
Being consulted on multiple issues all at the same time as definitely kept my interest!  Being asked questions about portables, curriculum, and lab protocols all within one hour definitely mirrors my work in my classroom!

5) Any sage advice for future teachers in residence?
It’s about balancing needs of different stakeholders – and thinking big picture.  It’s about thinking beyond just my classroom, my students, my colleagues, my school.  It’s about envisioning the needs to students and teacher across multiple spectra, while balancing the realities of a nonprofit trying to make as broad of an impact on student learning as resources can allow.

Kristen WolslegelSpotlight on BABEC Teacher in Residence – Alton Lee

BABEC at San Francisco Unified School District Science Professional Development day

Summer is almost over for many in the Bay Area and as students prepare for their first day of school, so too are teachers preparing for the new school year with a day of professional development.


For the second year, the BABEC team was invited to host a workshop for SFUSD science teachers during their Science PD day.  In addition to introducing them to BABEC’s growing team and starting a discussion about how BABEC can better serve the SFUSD science community, we had an opportunity to walk them through lab management and lesson plan particulars surrounding BABEC’s Bacterial Transformation curriculum.



The workshop ended with a presentation from Karen Leung about the Biotechnology Program at City College of San Francisco.



Special thanks to Sarah Delaney and the SFUSD Science Team for inviting BABEC to participate!


Kristen WolslegelBABEC at San Francisco Unified School District Science Professional Development day

The teachers behind BABEC curriculum updates

One of BABEC’s core values is to be responsive to teacher needs by providing relevant, teacher-generated content. This summer, BABEC has been working to meet that core value by updating and aligning our curriculum with to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Any seasoned educator will tell you this is a Herculean task, so we have been extremely fortunate to be working with teachers across the Bay Area to help us tackle this project.

Given all their hard work, we wanted to introduce you to this amazing team that has been working side-by-side with BABEC personal. We could not have done this without them!

Debbie Clark
Debbie teaches biology and biotechnology at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo and since 2012 she has been a biotechnology teacher for the Advanced Talent and Development Program at Cal during the summer. She became involved with BABEC in 2002 and is currently a BABEC board member. Debbie is very excited to be part of updating the BABEC curriculum as she wants more teachers to experience the excitement she’s had over the years using BABEC lessons. She hopes that the NGSS aligned lessons will encourage more teachers to participate in BABEC trainings and bring  this curriculum to their students. In her spare time, Debbie enjoys traveling, cooking, gardening and honing her skills as a novice birdwatcher.

Elizabeth Doggett
Elizabeth teaches biology and biotechnology at San Mateo High School and have been using BABEC curriculum since her student teaching days at Sequoia High School. The bacterial transformation lab is an essential part of Elizabeth’s curriculum so she has been excited to help with making it more accessible to English Language Learners as it provides an elegant context for students to ask questions and deepen their understanding of genetic engineering, the role of DNA in determining traits, and is just a fun, awe-inspiring lab. When not tackling curriculum, Elizabeth has spent her summer traveling to Africa with her husband, including a safari in Tanzania where they witnessed amazing ecological population dynamics in action!

Michelle Lafevre-Bernt
Michelle teaches Chemistry, Biology and Biotechnology at San Marin High School in Novat and has used BABEC curriculum since 2009. She volunteered to help with the updates because she believes that the BABEC curricula are a valuable resource to those who teach and learn biotech in the San Francisco Bay Area, and believe in the BABEC mission to bring current, relevant biotech experiences to students. Michelle have worked extensively on aligning  the life science curriculum for her school district with the Next Generation Science Standards, making her a valuable resource as BABEC updates and aligns their curricula to NGSS. In her down time, Michelle enjoys reading, gardening, hiking and camping and recently spent time in Washington DC with her brother, sister and their spouses.

Kent Morales
Kent teaches Biology and Physiology at San Rafael High School and have been using BABEC curriculum for four years. Working on this curriculum allows Kent to learn more about biotech and teaching from the wonderful teachers and professionals on the team. It also has allowed him to reflect on how we can make biotech more exciting and accessible for our students so that they can possibly pursue a career in the field one day. When not swimming or working in the yard this summer, Kent have been preparing for a backpacking adventure with his wife and two young children in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Patrick Roisen
Patrick teaches AP Biology and Integrated Science at Menlo-Atherton High School, has been using the Gene Connection/BABEC curriculum for 25 years and part of BABEC for 24 years. Patrick volunteered to help update the curriculum because he feels biotechnology is incredibly important for students to learn about, both for possible careers, but also so they can make informed decisions about the laws that need to be developed around biotechnology. This summer, Patrick went to Norway, and climbed up to see a glacier up close.



Denise Kwan
Denise teaches Biology for Newcomers and AP Environmental Science at Galileo Academy of Science and Technology. She is new to the BABEC community and used its curriculum for the first time last year! Denise volunteered to help with the updates to make the information clearer to other teachers who are new to BABEC. This summer, Denise went to Europe with her family; her favorite landmark was La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.


BABEC curricula update work is sponsored by: 

Kristen WolslegelThe teachers behind BABEC curriculum updates

Meet BABEC’s summer high school student intern!

Meet BABEC’s summer high school student intern, Christina Lin! Christina started working with BABEC in June and has been helping with reagent preparation and getting the portable laboratory updated and prepared for the 2018-2019 school year. We’ve greatly enjoyed having her join our team.

Some of you may be curious as to what a BABEC summer high school intern is and what they might do. To answer that, we sat down with Christina for an informal Q&A.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born and raised in the Bay Area and am currently going to school at San Mateo High School. Of all the classes I have taken, my favorite classes have always been my science classes because I love trying to understand how things work. Whether as a tutor for biology or as president of my high school’s Women in STEM (WiSTEM) club, a club that I started in order to get other girls excited about STEM fields, I want to share my passion for science with others.

I am strongly considering pursuing a career in the sciences, so my internship at BABEC has given me a better idea of what this might be like. Music is also a huge part of my life as I play both the piano and violin. As concertmaster of my school orchestra, I have played throughout the community and in the orchestra pit for multiple musical theater productions. I also play with the Peninsula Youth Orchestra and have especially enjoyed playing on international tours in Europe. In addition, I enjoy volunteering in my community, helping patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and being an active member of my city’s Youth Activities Council.

How did you learn about interning at BABEC? Why was this opportunity interesting to you?
The practical applications of biotechnology can be seen all around us, and I am excited by how biotechnology

can be useful in research and future discoveries. I was first inspired by biotechnology when I was in middle school and had the opportunity to extract and analyze DNA in a summer science program. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to continue biotechnology as a class at San Mateo High School with its state-of-the-art labs and training facility. Through my high school’s biotechnology program, I was able to get an internship with BABEC. Not only has my internship at BABEC help me gain more hands-on laboratory experience, but it has also given me the opportunity to help provide biotechnology experiences to other Bay Area students who may not have had this exposure otherwise.

What have you been doing as an intern?
As an intern at BABEC, I have had the wonderful opportunity to gain real-world work experience. I have helped with refurbishing portable biotechnology labs and making sure that everything is in working order for the upcoming school year. I have also gained hands-on laboratory experience by preparing a variety of chemical reagents, performing plasmid preparations, and learning other exciting laboratory procedures and skills.

What’s been your most memorable experience?
I have been thoroughly enjoying my experience at BABEC, but my most memorable experience would definitely be of the people that I work with. I have been excited to learn new things and to work side by side with experts in the science and education field. I am also inspired by the group’s mission and enthusiasm of making biotechnology education available to everyone.

From a student perceptive, why is BABEC important for the biotechnology/biosciences community?
The biotechnology industry is growing, and I believe more students need to be introduced to advancing technology in the biosciences. It is wonderful that BABEC provides teachers the opportunities to practice real science in their classrooms by giving them the materials and tools that they need to accomplish this goal. Students learn better with hands-on exposure through laboratory experiments, and many of these experiments make learning more fun and exciting. BABEC supports an active-learning model, and I believe that their work will help prepare and inspire the scientists of tomorrow.

Thanks so much Christina for chatting with us today! For more information about future internship opportunities, please monitor our Job Openings page or Contact Us for more information.

Kristen WolslegelMeet BABEC’s summer high school student intern!

Summer Vacation!

Oh, what a better way to enjoy summer than making sure our equipment is up to spec for circulation for the next school year. Many thanks to Mr. Jimmy Ikeda for lending us (letting us take over) space in his awesome classroom and lab for us to do this! 

This is just a snapshot of some of the equipment collected back from schools from the previous academic year that needs maintenance.


Maintaining all of our equipment requires collaboration from many sides (community, schools, teachers, and us) to make this happen and we are extremely grateful for all the help we get.

Much time and effort is spent on this maintenance project and is just part of how BABEC enjoys giving back to the community that helps with thrive.

With the help of our summer interns, we are ready to tackle the 2017-2018 school year!

(Which started two months ago…oops!)


Kitty MeiSummer Vacation!