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2012 MassBioEd Innovative School of the Year – Norton High School

April 5, 2012
Massachusetts is home to the full ecosystem of life sciences—including our world class academic institutions and medical centers, a vibrant venture capital community, hundreds of biotech companies of all sizes, contract research and manufacturing organizations, and service organizations supporting the industry.

It is no wonder then that eleven years ago MassBio established the Massachusetts Biotechnology Foundation to promote biotechnology education and workforce development programs. Each year, the Foundation awards the Innovative School of the Year to highlight and honor a Massachusetts high school for distinguishing itself through exemplary innovative biotechnology educational programming.

[caption id="attachment_7176" align="alignright" width="242" caption="(from left) Lance Hartford (MassBioEd), Renee Connolly (EMD Serono), Jason Henry (Norton High), Paula Beisheim (Norton High), Tanya Benoint (Norton High), Dr. Patricia Ansay (Norton Superintendent), Kady Ferguson (student)"]Students[/caption]

This year, MassBioEd granted the award to Norton High School in Norton, MA. Since 2007, Norton High School has worked with MassBioEd in the BioTeach program. The school has successfully utilized their BioTeach grant to expand biotechnology courses to all of their students and provide elective courses in biotech, forensics and anatomy & physiology. Each year, over 175 students are provided instruction in biotechnology based lab experiences, culminating in a research project that focuses on life sciences careers.

Other highlights of the innovative Norton High program include:

  • Presentations by former students. This year presentations were made by former students currently studying STEM majors at MIT and Tufts.

  • Norton teachers acting as mentors to former graduates. Many former students are now enrolled in STEM majors at the local colleges.

  • Norton offering a Biotechnology elective course. Now in its fourth year, competition is high for seats in both the Honors Level and College Preparatory/Main Stream Level Biotechnology classes.

  • Curriculum including topics such as Bioethics, Forensics, and Biotechnology. Students assist in laboratory preparation of materials, serve as lab assistants, present and demonstrate laboratory skills to the Norton School Committee and complete a final project which includes researching biotechnology companies and colleges that offer biotechnology majors.

  • Student internships. This year the Science department’s student internship was awarded to a Biotechnology student who is working on developing new labs and activities with the teacher for this course.  This student will also be focusing on a STEM major in college in the fall.

  • Actively participating in MassBioEd’s Life Science Career Development Initiative. Highlights included a “college hop” field trip bringing students to colleges that offer biotechnology programs/ majors, regular presentations by career professionals in the industry, students and teachers attending  workshops and job shadows at local universities and biotechnology companies and one-third of students in the first two cohorts enrolling in STEM majors in college.

Speaking of education, the annual International BioGENEius Challenge will take place June 18th at the 2012 BIO International Convention in Boston, MA. The International BioGENEius Challenge is the premier competition for high school students that recognized outstanding research in biotechnology. Finalists will showcase their talent and research to a prestigious panel of expert biotech judges and will display their projects to approximately 15,000 Convention participants.