When school starts next week, 16 Alabama teachers will be armed with an increased understanding of genetics and genomics, as well as a suite of lab activities to help them relay their newfound knowledge to their students.

This was the first summer the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology offered Genetic Technologies for Alabama Classrooms, or GTAC.  The two-week teacher academy, made possible through generous funding from the Boeing Charitable Trust and the Daniel Foundation, is designed to equip Alabama secondary school educators to more effectively teach genetics.

“It’s our hope that we can share with these teachers the excitement of genetic discovery and the applications for health, agriculture and energy,” said Neil Lamb, director of educational outreach. “The transfer of information and its connection to everyday life not only helps create more knowledgeable students, but also opens their eyes to the many career possibilities available in bioscience.”

Participants came from across the state with teachers from Huntsville and Madison County to as far south as Gulf Shores and Daphne.

Madelene Loftin, biotechnology education specialist, explained the potential impact GTAC will have on Alabama students. “Consider that each of these 16 participants will teach approximately 125 students, that’s 2,000 students in the 2010 – 2011 school year alone,” she said.

Clint Putman, a forensics and zoology teacher in Priceville, was in this summer’s academy.

“I love it,” Putman said. “I did not realize how much further ahead of me the technology really is. I am learning so much, like how fast you can replicate the human genome today.”

“This is different than any other teacher workshop I’ve been to,” said Robin Nelson, an educator from Montgomery. “We’ve heard from HudsonAlpha scientists who are actually working in the field and they are teaching us what is cutting edge and what is happening right now. That is a rarity for educators. Usually we have to wait for the textbooks to come out.”

HudsonAlpha’s educational outreach team plans on offering the program again next summer. For more on the purpose, goals and objectives of GTAC, click here.