The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is committed to training and helping to guide the next generation of scientists and elevating public interest in plant science and agriculture.
Hands-on, inquiry-based scientific learning experiences enable students to become scientists. The curriculum teaches important skills such as critical thinking, developing and testing hypotheses, observing outcomes, communicating results, lab etiquette and teamwork.
The Danforth Center’s Science Education and Outreach Programs provide:
- Professional development workshops for science educators;
- School and classroom resources;
- The design and development of new standard-based learning modules in plant biology, agriculture and biotechnology;
- The development of engaging plant science multimedia; student mentoring and shadowing experiences;
- Authentic lab research experiences in the classroom, and on a limited basis, in Danforth Center laboratories, for teachers and students alike.
K-12 & Citizen Science
Green Means Grow
This school gardening program introduces elementary students to the basics of plant science and agriculture. The programprovides equipment and instructional materials for students to plant and grow tomatoes, lettuce, and other plants in their classrooms. Students learn a range of science and math concepts through a variety of activities including planting, cultivating and harvesting crops. The program helps students understand the origin of their food, appreciate food choices and farming practices throughout the world and grasp the importance of global food security.
The multi-state program Mutant Millets offers high school students, including female and minority students, in the St. Louis region the opportunity for hands-on, observation-based scientific research. Participants cultivate plants, observe their development and record and submit data with the aim of identifying unique characteristics that may be of interest to plant scientists at the Danforth Center who are developing sustainable sources of biofuels and improved food crops. Mutant Millets seek to foster an interest in science both as an academic subject and potential career field, particularly in the areas of plant science and genetics.
Now in its 11th year, this program provides enrichment opportunities for St. Louis-area high school students to conduct experiments in biology, biotechnology and genetics. The Danforth Center develops and maintains kits containing curriculum, equipment and supplies to support a variety of classroom lab activities. Trunks are available only to teachers who have attended a training workshop. The basic trunk accommodates 24 students and, if requested, additional trunk materials can be included to accommodate up to 36 students.
The Missourians Doing Impact Research Together (MO DIRT) is a citizen science project within the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a multi-institutional research program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program “crowd sources” soil analyses and data collection to Missouri citizens, including K-12 students, who record relevant data about the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils. Ever-expanding its volunteer base, the collected data will provide a more complete picture of the current health of Missouri soils, the dynamic interactions between our soils and the atmosphere, and the potential impacts of extreme weather and climate change on agricultural productivity and natural areas. The total number of participants in MO DIRT in 2017 was 1,472. This included 655 students and 817 adults. MO DIRT worked with 49 institutions. Currently, 60 soil health survey sites are being actively monitored by 380 citizens around the state to collect data and encourage stewardship, better soil management and soil conservation actions.
Girls STEAM Ahead
Girls STEAM Ahead, a partnership with the Girls Scouts of Eastern Missouri, is an annual three-day program that connects girls in three scouting levels with leading women scientists at the Danforth Center in a fun summer camp environment. The program incorporates art into STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering and math). Girls STEAM Ahead seeks to encourage the pursuit of careers in science and to increase diversity with STEM fields.
St. Louis Raspberry Pi Jam
The St. Louis Raspberry Pi Jam is a semi-annual event offering attendees of all ages the opportunity for hands-on science and engineering through experiencing a variety of stations with Raspberry Pi microcomputers, circuits, soldering metal with supervision and other do-it-yourself projects. In 2018, more than 900 guests ranging the ages of 5 to 70 attended the innovative event.