Public Release: 

Coker, Ellis and Williams awarded ASPB foundation grant for science education public outreach

American Society of Plant Biologists

ROCKVILLE - Mary Williams, Associate Professor of Biology at Harvey Mudd College; Jeffrey Coker, Assistant Professor of Biology at Elon University; and Jane Ellis, Associate Professor of Biology at Presbyterian College; have collaborated to win funding from the American Society of Plant Biologists 2007 Grant Awards Program. The ASPB Education Foundation awards up to $30,000 to ASPB members conducting research projects that will advance plant biology through K-16 education and public outreach activities.

Jeffrey Coker, Jane Ellis and Mary Williams will use their 2007 GAP award to identify, trouble-shoot, assess and disseminate a hands-on, inquiry-based learning program via their project entitled, "Twelve Activities to Accompany the Twelve Principles of Plant Biology". ASPB has defined The 12 Principles of Plant Biology as a spring board for plant science education at the K-12 levels. These principles serve as guidelines for curriculum developers and teachers to ensure that students gain a thorough understanding of plant biology.

The newly-funded Twelve Activities project is the fruit of the applicants' considerable combined experience in plant science education as well as their response to numerous requests from teachers and organizations for well-constructed ('foolproof') hands-on, active-learning opportunities with plants.

Coker states, "We envision our project as a resource for the ASPB. The hands-on activities will be available for use in a variety of settings, including ASPB Education Booths, teacher workshops, outreach activities, and middle school and high school classrooms."

The project has five phases. First, the team will review their repository of activities to identify those that align best with each principle, engage students, and work well in classrooms (safe, inexpensive, simple).

Next, they will adapt each activity to suit the middle school student's capability levels and interests. Lessons will be designed carefully to meet the parameters of time and lab facilities available in most middle schools.

Third, they will develop teacher and student guides. Each team member will be the lead-developer on four activities and will revise the guides as they are field-tested. ASPB member and middle school teacher, Nathley Ceaser, will also review the materials.

Then the assessment cycle for optimizing each activity will hit full stride. During the summers of 2008 & 2009, PI Jeffrey Coker will teach and evaluate the program during the one-month Elon Academy for talented students (grade 8-12) from underprivileged backgrounds. He will train TAs to teach at the Academy, thus perpetuating the cycle of experienced science educators. Jane Ellis will follow a similar plan with 6th-graders during the CHAMPS (Communities Helping, Assisting, Motivating, Promising Students) summer program at Presbyterian College.

Finally, the team will disseminate the project to several thousand new people around the country every year. They will present their activities at teacher workshops within various school systems. The will prepare PDF files of the activities to be archived on the ASPB website for easy access. The team also will develop traveling booth activities for teachers to conduct at NABT, NSTA, and public science events like AAAS Family Science Days. When the 12 Activities are fully-developed, the trio will present to the Council of State Science Supervisors at the NSTA conference with the goal of disseminating the project through this influential network of science education outreach.


ASPB, headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, was founded in 1924 as the American Society of Plant Physiologists. This professional society has a membership of 5,000 plant scientists from the United States and more than 50 other nations. ASPB publishes two of the most widely cited plant science journals in the world: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology.

Jeffrey Coker

Jane Ellis

Mary Williams

Brian Hyps
301.251.0560 ext 114

Katie Engen
301.251.0560 ext 116

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