Building with Biology at The Ohio State University: Partnering with Community Organizations to Engage the Public in Science Learning

December 1, 2016

by Courtney Price, The Ohio State University

The Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS) and the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center (ABRC) at The Ohio State University (OSU) used the Building with Biology kit as an opportunity to engage in public outreach while building community partnerships. CAPS and ABRC have been exploring partnership opportunities with COSI, the science center in Columbus, Ohio, for the past few years. The hands-on activities included in the Building with Biology kit provided an ideal opportunity to work with COSI as a part of their annual Farm Days event, which brings the farm into the city for a five-day long celebration of agriculture. In addition to a few other activities, the CAPS and ABRC station featured Bio Bistro and See DNA. With these activities, we were able to spark curiosity and engage COSI visitors in interesting and thought provoking conversations about science. We estimate that we engaged with approximately 1,800 COSI visitors at our station throughout the five days of programming.

Taking our involvement in the Building with Biology project further, being awarded a forum stipend allowed CAPS to build a relationship with a new community partner, the Franklin Park Conservatory. The Franklin Park Conservatory served as the host site for CAPS’ Should We Edit the Genome? When, Why, and How Much? public forum. Drawing on the vast expertise of OSU faculty participating in CAPS, this forum featured short presentations by Dr. Anna Dobritsa and Dr. Katrina Cornish. These presentations set the stage for the forum discussions that followed by providing an overview of CRISPR technology and its application in plant research, as well as the societal and ethical implication of this type of technology.  This free event was attended by fifty individuals ranging from high school students to retired professionals. We were able to blend the hands-on activities from the kit into the forum format by featuring activity stations in the event space. Attendees who arrived early were invited to participate in two Building with Biology activities, Tech Tokens and Kit of Parts.

Since the completion of these two successful programs, our outreach efforts have continued to utilize some of the Building with Biology materials. The Bio Bistro activity was featured at the ABRC/CAPS station as a part of OSU’s annual Science of Agriculture event. At this event, our staff interacted with 150 middle school students. Bio Bistro was also featured during CAPS and ABRC’s short course at the National Science Teachers Association Area Conference in Columbus, Ohio. We look forward to continuing to use these materials for education and outreach in the coming years.

For questions about this Building with Biology collaborative outreach event, contact Courtney Price (