Develop educational resources to enhance public understanding of plant genomics and biotechnology and foster partnerships with institutions serving students and teachers in the Mississippi Delta. The outreach program is now well rooted and will continue to have a huge and sustainable impact that is desperately needed in the area. The region, known as the Mississippi Delta, ranges from south of Memphis, TN to Vicksburg, MS and up to 50 miles inland from the Mississippi river. Our initial focus will be on school districts within the three counties in the center of the Delta and two HBCUs. Mississippi ranks near the bottom for many economic and social factors such as public education, income, and health, however; non-Delta alone would rank 20 points higher among the 50 U.S. States. Besides the clear need, we are working with an ethnic group that is underrepresented in the U.S. science. MS has the highest percentage of African Americans (37.2%) in the U.S. and 65.8-72.2% within these counties.
First, we will interact directly with the science teachers at the grade 7-12 level and help them incorporate Plant Genomics and Biotechnology into part of their curricula. Due to the magnitude of needs, we will further leverage our resources by continuing to work with recent USDA-ARS K-12 outreach efforts in Stoneville, MS.
Second, we will teach the teachers to include genetics and biotechnology in their classes, improve the quality of their science experience, and allow the teachers to see firsthand the opportunities available for their students.
Third, we will provide summer internships for the students in a relativelynew MSc curriculum inBioinformatics at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) through Scheffler lab at Stoneville, MS and the Chen lab at The University of Texas at Austin. A similar module will be developed with the MSc students in Genomics and Biotechnology at Alcorn State University (ASU) and arrange for the students to work in summer research projects in the Haigler lab at NC State and the Stelly lab at Texas A&M.