Work in progress: Starfish schoolhouse: Development of a story based elearning module to teach regenerative medicine concepts to middle and high school students and teachers

Cheryl Bodnar, Joan Frances Schanck, Kalyani Raghavan, Nathan Grant Smith, Kurt Hess, Brian Michael Buirge, Robert Melvin, Brian Hackett

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Regenerative medicine's potential to revolutionize today's health care treatments offers great promise as a cutting-edge, multidisciplinary field to excite the next generation of scientists and engineers. Unfortunately, many of the noteworthy websites on regenerative medicine have been assembled utilizing a traditional textbook style format. In spite of amazing scientific images, pictures and graphics with accurate and informative text, such sites often come across as less appealing to the middle and high school audience (grades 7-12). In an effort to inspire and inform middle and high school students about this dynamic field, we have created the Starfish Schoolhouse through supplemental funding received from the NIH Science Education Partnership Award (Grant# 3R25RR023286-05S1). This web-based platform, hosted as part of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative's (PTEI) "If a Starfish Can Grow a New Arm than Why Can't I?" project featuring interactive, permanent and travelling science center exhibits, classroom curricula and teacher professional development, provides middle and high school students and teachers an immersive, web-based, story-driven approach to learn about regenerative medicine and stem cell research. The focus of this publication will be on the development of the first story based, e-learning module on stem cells entitled, "Professor Regen and the Nemesis Hunt". The learning objectives for this module were three fold: (1) to allow students to be able to differentiate between the different types of stem cells; (2) have students identify methods used to isolate stem cells; and (3) enable students to be able to identify advantages and disadvantages of the use of each type of stem cell in regenerative medicine practice. In an effort to make this module satisfy these learning requirements, while also further igniting and retaining the attention of our middle and high school target audience, we partnered with OpenArc, LLC who helped take the scientific content and concept ideas presented and transform them into a suspense-based plot and story-line with engaging characters. The storyline for this first module follows Professor Regen on a hunt around "Anyville" while she tries to locate her missing stem cell lines, later found to be stolen by a former colleague, Dr. Nikos Nemesis. The module consists of seven distinct chapters of which six relay scientific information related to stem cells while assessing students'/teachers' understanding of this material through small, randomized chapter quizzes. In addition, the story-based e-learning module allows students and teachers the flexibility to choose which direction they would like to take the story via the integration of a map where participants select which area of "Anyville" they would like to search for the missing stem cell lines. Upon completion of the e-learning module, participants are presented with a mastery quiz to determine overall comprehension of the material presented. In partnership with the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), the first module will be piloted in the winter of 2013 with middle and high school teachers and students for its ease of use and ability to engage, inspire and inform the target audience about stem cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Sep 24 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2013Jun 26 2013


Other120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAtlanta, GA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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