Development of the SUN Project

Course Description

Gina Vogt, Mary Anne Haasch, Tom Harrington and Marisa Roberts evaluate SUN instructional materials at an Advisory Board meeting.

Gina Vogt, Mary Anne Haasch, Tom Harrington and Marisa Roberts evaluate SUN instructional materials at an Advisory Board meeting.

The SUN Project is a randomized, controlled study that occurred during the 2009-2011 school years. Teacher participants were randomly assigned to a workshop, during which they learned about energy transfer in biology through the use of newly developed instructional tools. These tools include models that represent components of the mitochondrion and chloroplast, animations and other instructional materials. Because this project determined the feasibility of using these materials effectively, the teacher participants were considered professional partners in formatively evaluating the workshop that introduces these ideas and materials and in evaluating the use of these materials in the classroom. The study also generated student data regarding the impact of the materials on student learning.

During the workshop, teacher participants explored the following:

  • How respiration powers life and what this process has in common with a hydrogen fuel cell
  • The mechanism of the ATP synthase, the protein nanomachine that literally recycles ATP from ADP and inorganic phosphate
  • How photosynthesis resembles respiration in terms of both protein components and strategies
  • The fundamental principles of energy transfer that underlie all of these biological processes
  • How this fundamental knowledge of energy transfer underlies many aspects of the biology curriculum including biodiversity, physiology, renewable fuels, and even evolution

Teachers presented a group lesson during the workshop and modified their biology curriculum to incorporate connections to energy transfer, a process they continued to explore throughout the year as they took part in Fall and Spring meetings where they exchanged ideas and learned about newly developed tools such as the microbial fuel cell and mitochondian e-book.Through a variety of assessments regarding the impact of the workshop and materials, teachers have influenced modifications to both the workshop and instructional materials and therefore maximized the effectiveness of the SUN Project. Besides content assessments and surveys that are administered throughout the year, there continues to be one planned classroom observation per year with collaborative analysis by project staff and the teacher participant to determine how teaching practice has been influenced by the workshop. In appreciation for their service, there is a $250 stipend for participation; but more importantly, teachers received models and instructional materials for their own use. They also have access to class sets that can be borrowed as needed.

Mary Gruhl holds a model of glucose as she talks with members of the Teacher Advisory Board.

Mary Gruhl holds a model of glucose as she talks with members of the Teacher Advisory Board.

Primary Instructors

  1. Ann Batiza, Ph.D. was the principal investigator and developer of this study and is the Director of The SUN Project Research Center at Milwaukee School of Engineering. Dr. Batiza has experience teaching at all grade levels, pre K through college, has researched ion channels, and is the author of the trade textbook for young adults, Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics: Getting the Big Picture. Her NSF proposal to adapt these undergraduate materials for the undergraduate level has recently been recommended for funding. Ann can be contacted by phone at (414) 277-2825.
  2. Mary Gruhl, Ph.D. is an award-winning teacher of middle school and high school science. She is a co-principal investigator for this project and is the retired director of the UW-Milwaukee Center for Science Education. Dr. Gruhl was a co-developer of many of the resources that were used during the course.

Specialty Instructors

  1. Professor David Nelson, Ph.D, a biochemistry professor at UW-Madison, is the former Director of the UW-Madison Center for Biology Education and is the co-author of the premiere undergraduate textbook, Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. He was a co-prinicipal investigator on this project and presented information about basic principles of energy transfer. During a catered dinner for participants at the Alumni Partnership Center he presented the history of the discoveries regarding photosynthesis
  2. Retired physical chemistry professor Michael Patrick, Ph.D. of UW-Madison presented information about the physics and chemistry of energy transfer and was available at specified times to answer questions.
  3. Mark Hoelzer is the Lead Designer for the CBM and for the SUN Project. Under the direction of Ann Batiza, and with input from the PIs and Teacher and Scientist Advisory Boards, he has turned ideas for physical and virtual SUN materials into the final products.
Ann Batiza meets with the Scientist Advisory Board.

Ann Batiza meets with the Scientist Advisory Board.

SUN Teacher and Scientist Advisory Board

Experienced teachers from Wisconsin who are members of the SUN Teacher Advisory Board presented some lessons and were available to answer questions and assist during the workshop activities. During material development, the teacher advisory board helped to guide development and ensured the materials were applicable and user friendly to the classroom. As well, the teacher advisory board memebers were available during the workshops. The Scientist Advisory Board oversaw development of SUN materials and provided input regarding their accuracy and focus on energy principles.

Scientist Advisory Board members, Professors Rick Amasino and Dave Nelson of UW-Madison, discuss the implications of the fuel cell analogy to cellular respiration.

Scientist Advisory Board members, Professors Rick Amasino and Dave Nelson of UW-Madison, discuss the implications of the fuel cell analogy to cellular respiration.

The SUN Teacher Advisory Board includes:

  • Donna LaFlamme, St. Dominic School, Brookfield, WI
  • Mary Anne Haasch, Wauwatosa West, Wauwatosa, WI
  • Tom Harrington, Bacon Academy, Storrs, CT
  • Jonathan Knopp, International Baccalaureate Consultant, former Rufus King High School teacher, Milwaukee, WI
  • Marisa Roberts, Whitefish Bay High School, Whitefish Bay, WI
  • Gina Vogt, Brown Deer High School, Brown Deer, WI

SUN Scientist Advisory Board includes:

  • Professor Rick Amasino, UWMadison
  • Dr. Michelle Harris, UW Madison
  • Dr. Jane Harris Cramer, UW Madison
  • Dr. Jim Mallmann, Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Professor Patrick Masson, UW Madison
  • Richard Phillips, Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Dr. Beth Rosen, UW Madison
  • Dr. Jean Yves Sgro, UW Madison
    Paul Williams, originator of Wisconsin Fast Plants and UW-Madison professor emeritus, discusses the SUN Project with Beth Rosen, Michelle Harris, and Jean-Yves Sgro of UW-Madison at the Scientist Advisory Board Meeting.

    Paul Williams, originator of Wisconsin Fast Plants and UW-Madison professor emeritus, discusses the SUN Project with Beth Rosen, Michelle Harris, and Jean-Yves Sgro of UW-Madison at the Scientist Advisory Board Meeting.

  • Professor Paul Williams, UW Madison
  • X.–L. Zhou, UW Madison

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Ian Ashton has focused most of his attention on refining the design of the ATP Synthase mechanical model. He presented his work with Mark Hoelzer and Ann Batiza at the National Association for Biology Teachers (NABT) meeting in 2010. He also contributed substantially to production of all the classroom models for both of the workshops.

Heather Bobrowitz has developed a beta version of a microbial fuel cell kit. The kit includes materials and instructions for making a microbial fuel cell, an animation of its operation, and simple exercises regarding electricity. She also presented her work with Ann Batiza at the NABT meeting in 2010. Heather helped to develop and continues to coordinate collection of online survey data and contributed substantially to production of all the classroom models for both of the workshops.

Kari Renzelman worked with Mark Hoelzer to technically implement the new mitochondrial ebook. Kari was a coauthor of a poster presentation about the mitochondrial ebook at the NABT meeting in 2010. She continues to maintain the SUN Web pages and contributed substantially to production of all the classroom models for the 2010 workshop. She and Mark will work in a similar way to technically implement a new chloroplast ebook.

Previous undergraduate researchers, Linnea Elliott, Anthony Gray, and Benjamin Blair, also contributed to the project. Linnea Elliott reformatted the hydrogen fuel cell materials to create a flip book. She also contributed substantially to production of the laminated models for the workshops and classroom materials. Anthony Gray worked on an early model of cytochrome b6f. Benjamin Blair designed cup holders for the hydrogen fuel cell kit and helped to set up the SUN participants Blackboard site. Both also helped to produce materials for workshop participants.

Other contributors include undergraduates Ryan Wyss and Savannah Anderson and z-corp operator, Bill Hoelzer.

Supported by grant R305B070443 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Services

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