Science Educator Profile | Brooke Bourdélat-Parks

Meet the BSCS science educators! Learn why our science educators
chose the field of science in general for their careers, and science
education in particular. What are they working on right now? Why is
this work important, and what will we all gain from it?

Featured work: AP Biology Leadership Academy

How long have you been with BSCS?

I joined BSCS in 2007. Since that time, I have had great opportunities to work on many different projects, including revising our high school programs, writing units for middle school, working with the Singapore Ministry of Education to develop curriculum for elementary school, and doing many different professional development projects.

What is your area of emphasis?

My degree is in applied biology with a concentration in molecular genetics, so I am a biologist at heart. One of the really great things about BSCS is that you get to work in such a variety of areas. In my time here, I have worked on projects that involve nanoscience and getting scientists involved in education. I have also done professional development and coaching for physics and chemistry teachers. I get to learn new things all the time!

How/when did you become interested in the field of science education?

Even though my degrees are in science, I had always had a feeling that there were “better ways” to teach science than lecturing. I did not learn well that way myself, and once I got to graduate school and was teaching some laboratories, I started exploring other ways to teach. I was fortunate to find and become part of a postdoctoral program that allowed us to do scientific research with part of our time and teaching with the rest. This program provided classes and teaching opportunities about best practices in teaching science. I was able to try out some of these practices in an environment where I had mentors and other postdoctoral fellows to discuss new ideas and the results from trying those ideas. I spent a couple of years teaching and really tried to do some interesting things in my classes. Once I had the opportunity to work at BSCS and be surrounded by colleagues that felt the way I did about science education, I knew that was where I wanted to be.

What is your education background?

My undergraduate degree is in biology. After graduation, I worked as a biologist at the National Institutes of Health and as an embryologist at The George Washington University. At that point, I went back to graduate school and earned my Ph.D at Georgia Institute of Technology. Once I finished my Ph.D., I began the Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching program at Emory University, which really contributed to my knowledge about science education and how to teach science.

Why is science education important in our lives?

First of all, because science is fun! I always appreciated that my mother encouraged me to do things like keeping a praying mantis as a “pet” for a brief time when I was little and to do other activities that were related to science. I think the way science is taught and encouraged can really inspire people to get involved with science.

Even more, I think it is important that people become scientifically literate citizens. I want today’s students to grow up and be able to read a newspaper article and know whether to trust the information in that article. I hope the students learn how to find the information they need related to health issues they might have. I want them to know how to vote on issues related to science because they are able to think scientifically and come to their own conclusions. People are confronted with issues related to science every day and good science education is the key to helping them make decisions to the best of their abilities.

What are you working on at BSCS right now, and with whom?

One of the exciting projects I am working on right now is planning the first AP Biology Leadership Academy. This is a joint effort between BSCS and the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) to help develop leaders in AP Biology. BSCS Science Educators April Gardner, Jody Bintz, and Janet Carlson (Executive Director) are also on the team for this project.

The College Board has recently released a new AP Biology framework that focuses on four “big ideas” in biology. The framework makes a shift from a content-driven course to an inquiry-based course. I am really excited about these changes because I think it will have a great impact on the way AP Biology students think about and learn about science.

As part of the AP Biology Leadership Academy, teachers will attend a one-week institute in Colorado Springs this summer. During the week, we will focus on the practices of science, the nature of the curriculum, teaching practices, assessment, and leadership. The teachers will also participate in the NABT Professional Development Conference this fall. We will continue to work with the teachers through an online component throughout the school year. Then we will all reconvene for another weeklong institute in Colorado Springs next summer where we will continue our work on the areas listed above.

Who will this work benefit?

In the beginning, the work will primarily benefit AP Biology teachers and their students. We do plan to continue to facilitate AP Biology Leadership Academies after the first cohort, so we hope to have an impact with many AP teachers. Over time, we believe that these AP Biology teachers will start to influence the teaching practices in their science departments. Teaching biology as it relates to big ideas, as the new AP Biology framework does, is something that I think we will see more and more of in the future, so our work with the leadership academy will really have the potential to benefit many other biology teachers and students.

The AP Biology Leadership Academy is a great example of bringing the BSCS mission to life. It brings together research on how people learn, best practices in science teaching, and leadership development to create a program that will inspire leaders within the AP Biology community. I believe the strands that will be included in this leadership academy will transform teaching to create a great environment for students to really learn science. It will also help teachers develop their own leadership abilities so they can go on to inspire their colleagues. As more teachers begin teaching big ideas and science practices in their classes, I think it will transform the way students think and learn about science, which will lead to more scientifically literate adults. What a great thing that would be!

Learn more about the Academy.

For full Academy details and dates, click here.

The AP Bio Leadership Academy is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Pearson Foundation, and the Richard Petritz Foundation. BSCS is proud to partner with like-minded organizations committed to making a difference in science education.

Click here to learn more about the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Click here
to learn more about the Pearson Foundation.