The Microfungi Collection Consortium represents an integrated collaborative partnership in the National Science Foundation supported Thematic Collections Network to increase the accessibility of digitized collection information for educational and scientific use. Educational outreach programs provide an important link to foster communication and interaction between scientists and society. Scientists at academic institutions, government agencies and museums often collaborate to develop and deliver outreach programs in K-12 educational settings with the goal of improving science education and broadening participation in science. These programs allow for a link between learners and access to online digital biological collection information and it is important to recognize that both audiences have information to share with each other. Biological collections personnel and scientists also serve as sources of expert knowledge while bringing novel concepts and field-specific insights to K-12 learners. Educators and K-12 learners help outreach professionals recognize the needs of real-world learners and promote communication of science with those outside their field of study.
A five-day workshop for Georgia pre-service, middle and high school biology/environmental science teachers was offered from July 14-18, 2017 at the University of Georgia, Athens Main Campus in conjunction with the Mycological Society of America annual scientific meeting. The workshop provided teachers with an opportunity for informal science inquiry through participating in field and laboratory activities, interacting with fungal biologists and attending scientific sessions. The workshop also provided teachers with an increased understanding of the 1) relative importance of digitized biological collections, 2) functional role of fungi in ecosystems and society, and 3) potential use of fungi to illustrate key scientific concepts central to chemistry, cellular biology, ecology, evolution, and genetics for developing inquiry-based and experiential learning assignments and activities in science curricula. The workshop was based on the premise that teachers have limited time to discuss fungi as isolated taxonomic units in their curriculum and culminated with teachers developing a fungal-based lesson plan to illustrate key fundamental concepts in core scientific disciplines that aligned with next generation educational standards.
Submitted by Marc A. Cubeta, Sharon Mozley-Standridge, Kathryn E. Green, Lanette S. Phillips, and Molly Phillips