BioEYES: In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

BioEYES: Taking Steps in Solidarity

As we embark on our 19th school year full of new opportunities and challenges, the BioEYES team has continued to work on our framework of change that seeks to act on, and advocate for, social justice and equity in our education systems. We continue to have social justice conversations as part of our team meetings and are happy that we can share some steps we have taken since the Spring.

First, each member of our team has taken the time to do work within themselves and in our institutions. Some actions include participating in university-based diversity training as well as taking time to focus on self-education. For example, Dr. Farber and Shuda both participate in their university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committees. Our UPenn team is attending inclusion and diversity training and have completed unconscious bias training. We are also taking action within our communities with team members being part of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and a social justice parent group called Family Alliance for Respect and Equity or F.A.R.E to name a few.

We also recognize that we have a unique opportunity to speak about the science that underlies human pigmentation and how this trait has evolved. In fact, our BioEYES curriculum uses fish lines that express different levels of skin pigments due to changes in the same genes that influence human skin color. We think that providing students of color this information is empowering. Our Outreach Educators are developing a new lesson, to be embedded in our BioEYES units, which will focus on understanding the science behind melanin at age-appropriate levels. Within this lesson, diverse scientists who work at understanding pigment will be featured. Our educational goal of this lesson is for our students to understand that pigmentation has a scientific purpose and our common ancestors were from Africa and had dark skin color. That as they migrated north their genes slightly changed to ultimately produce lighter skin color that would be beneficial in locations with less sunlight. Differences in human skin color is a direct result of this evolutionary process.

We also want to focus our efforts on continuing to recruit public schools in which the majority of the students are Black and to increase the number of LatinX students that we serve. We will be working with our respected district administrators to identify teachers from these schools, who we do not already have a relationship with, and will reach out directly to invite them to become part of our program. Traditionally, teachers seek out our program and reach out to us but we can also do our part to recruit from identified schools.

Finally, our team will diversify our network of advisory board members, volunteers, partners, and scientists. We have solicited university volunteers specifically to translate our genetics curriculum to Spanish. Volunteers meet virtually with our students to discuss what it is like to pursue science as a Black or LatinX person in order to encourage a STEM identity for our youngest scientists. We have also asked our partner teachers of color to provide input on our strategies and action plans. BioEYES leadership greatly appreciates input from these partners as they provide a trusted voice in how our program is impacting students and how we can grow our work to be more mindful of the inequities and injustices that occur.

The BioEYES team is committed to supporting our teachers and students during this difficult time. We have launched our virtual BioEYES experiments, trained partner teachers, and are keeping our fish healthy and ready to visit local classrooms! We can’t wait to see you all again.

Proudly partnered for the advancement of science education
University of Pennsylvania
Carnegie Institution for Science
University of Utah
Monash University
Thomas Jefferson University