ASPB Funded Programs

Resources for PIs, Programs & Professional Development

Master of Plant Science Team

PlantingScience (PS) is an online platform where middle and high school students reflect with scientists on plant-based research projects designed and conducted by the students in their classrooms. Free modules for organizing this research and sustaining the student-researcher interactions are available at ASPB has officially partnered with PS since 2006, and has sponsored 12 members of the Masters of Plant Science Team (MPST) annually since it was established in 2008.

The MPST is a special cohort of graduate student and post doc plant scientists who mentor PS students. MPST members are selected upon successfully completing a competitive process to demonstrate their ability to collaboratively engage and guide the students through the PS research modules and the online platform. These collaborations rely on clear, engaging, time-sensitive, and non-directive communication with the students and to a lesser degree with their classroom teachers.

Along with helping highly-motivated students conduct meaningful research, the MPST members also enrich ASPB by contributing to an active cohort of Society members working to support future participants in the field of plant biology. MPST members are awarded a year’s free membership to ASPB and 50% off registration for the upcoming Plant Biology annual meeting.

Master Educator Program

The Master Educator Program (MEP) offers financial support to successful applicants (ASPB members) to participate in focused, substantive, and practical professional development with the aim of developing undergraduate plant biology instructional materials for an active learning classroom.

MEP recipients are expected to work with a mentor experienced in teaching undergraduates with active learning methods. The mentor will serve as a sounding board and trouble-shooter as well as suggest resources and accountability measures. ASPB will coordinate mentor selection with successful applicants.

Note: The MEP RfP will be updated for 2017 to reflect several key changes (e.g. a transition to annual funding). Many elements of this MEP RfP will remain valid. Please check back for the 2017 update.

The MEP program reimburses for up to $3500 for travel to the mentor’s site as well as the Plant Biology annual meeting in the year following the grant year. MEP winners will present their outcomes/new resources as a poster and possibly in the Education Booth.

The PALM Network Grant

The Promoting Active Learning & Mentoring (PALM) network was established to spark sustained biology education reform at diverse institutions through one-on-one mentorships for faculty new to approaches based on Vision and Change recommendations. PALM provides faculty and postdoctoral fellows with resources that allow them to gain hands-on experience and mentorship in bringing evidence-based, effective active learning strategies into their own classrooms. The longer term goal is to lead enduring change that will positively influence the teaching culture at each PALM fellow’s institution.

Fellowships application deadlines are each January and June. PALM fellows are awarded up to $2000 for mentoring visit expenses. There is a $500 mentor stipend. The fellow and mentor can be reimbursed up $1000 for travel to professional society meeting(s) to present outcomes.


Plant BLOOME—Managed by the ASPB Education Committee, the Plant Biology Learning Objectives, Outreach Materials & Education (BLOOME) Grant funds projects to advance youth, student, and general public knowledge and appreciation of plant biology. The current maximum budget request is $50,000.

Since 1995, ASPB members have been awarded this grant for developing education and outreach projects that advance youth, student, or general public knowledge and appreciation of plant biology. See below for blurbs about recent projects. Information on Plant BLOOME grants (called ‘Grant Award Program’ or ‘Education Foundation Grants’) that were awarded prior to 2014 is archived in the ASPB News.

Potential BLOOME applicants who wish to interact with BLOOME PIS to glean insight and ask questions may request admission to the BLOOME PIs user group on Plantae.


BLOOME 2016: Plantocomics

Principal Investigator:

Anna Elisabeth Backhaus, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.


Isotta Reichenbach, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.

The goal of this project is the creation of a comic book series that communicates plant biology research to children ages 9 to 12. The fundamental idea is very simple: to find cutting-edge plant biology research projects, and transform the process, concepts or outcomes shared in these papers into a visually and mentally stimulating format that engages young readers. The fascinating content, beautiful illustrations and adequate level of complexity of the comics will stimulate children’s interest in plants at a very young age.

The co-PIs want to explain plant research projects to children because they believe young minds are capable of and will be inspired by learning about the intricacies of what plants can do. Anna and Isotta also want children exposed to the concept of using primary research to become informed citizens. More specifically, the comics will explain topics that would never be part of a standard school curriculum. They will provide a glimpse into real biology so children (and adults) can see that while photosynthesis may be a familiar beginning, plant biology research certainly goes much further than that.

The comics should make children aware of the overwhelming importance of plants for nearly every aspect of human life and increase the plant biology literacy of young school children. Children reading the comics should feel encouraged to use their natural inquisitiveness in biology and discover that a further study of plant biology could be very desirable and fun as well as lead to a future career. To ensure that the comics are suitable for specific learning levels and interesting for the targeted audience we will develop an evaluation plan with classroom teachers.

To enhance the comic book series’ successful dissemination, each book will be translated into multiple languages and distributed online via ASPB’s and other channels. Anna and Isotta also will present them at the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair (one of the World’s largest) and at Plant Biology 2017 as well as other ASPB outreach venues. The comics could become a viable part of biology school lessons anywhere in the world but also be found as the favorite title on a bookshelf in a children’s room.

An additional benefit of this project is its unique cross-curricular integration of knowledge. Anna is a student in the School of Biological Sciences and Isotta studies in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.

BLOOME 2016: Plant solutions for global problems: Bringing plant science to life through interactive videoconferencing

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Erich Grotewold, The Ohio State University

Plants play a critical role in our daily lives. From serving as the foundation of our food system, to contributing to biotechnology solutions for global challenges, the importance of plants is undeniable. Yet, plants are often taken for granted by the general public and often made to take a back seat to the allure of studying animals in K-12 education. In order to raise awareness about the importance of plants and bring them into the limelight in science education, it is important that teachers are provided with high quality, engaging activities that complement their curriculum and align with state and national standards.

This project will bring together plant researchers with education experts in the development of resources designed to engage students and the public in learning about how plant research impacts our lives. This will be accomplished through a partnership between PhD Fellows, faculty and staff at the Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS) at The Ohio State University and educators from the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio.

The resources developed through this proposal will reinforce plant science concepts in both the general public and students in grades 6-12. Concepts such as plant- based biotechnology, food systems, agriculture and climate change will be highlighted.

Funds from this grant will allow for the development of two sets of resources:

  • Four 3-5 minute educational videos that will be available to educators and the general public
  • An interactive videoconferencing (IVC) program offered through COSI, which will remotely connect plant researchers, educators and students for a live hour long program. The IVC program will be developed for middle and high school classrooms and be piloted in Central Ohio.

These resources will reinforce important science concepts while exploring global challenges and current research related to plant science. The IVC program and extension activities will engage students in hands-on investigations, discussions and demonstrations that promote critical thinking. The educational videos will condense the core messages presented in the IVC program into fun, fast-paced mini-lessons that will be made available as a free online resource for students, teachers and the general public via the CAPS webpage. These new resources will complement, expand upon and provide an opportunity to promote existing education materials current offered by other plant science organizations such as the ASPB, Wisconsin Fast Plants Program, Indiana University and Science Forward.

Evaluation results from the pilot phase will be used to refine program materials prior to making them available to schools throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. Utilization of the resources developed through this proposal will lead to an increase in plant science knowledge, positive attitudes towards learning science, and awareness of plant science career options.

BLOOME 2016: Plant STEM for K-12 Education

Principal Investigator:

Mark Eastburn, Riverside School, Princeton, NJ


Edward Cohen, science supervisor for Princeton Public Schools
Martha Friend, Littlebrook School
John Emmons, Community Park School
Lora Hubert, Johnson Park School
Jacqueline Katz, Princeton High School
Brindley Dane and Dale Caldwell, Village Charter School
Audrey Polites, Foundation Academy Middle School
Ahmed-Ali Awadallah, Foundation Collegiate Academy
Joel Finkelstein, Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Samuel Wang, Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Princeton University
Zemer Gitai and Bridgett vonHoldt, Princeton University and the Princeton University Botany Club

Mark first developed a passion for plant science while serving as an agroforestry volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps, where he started a reforestation program that brought iguana ranching and sustainable land management practices to his site in rural Panama. In more recent years, Mark has been involved in an ongoing study of population genetics with box turtles, in collaboration with scientists at Princeton University, and has worked with the Princeton Neuroscience Institute to guide his students through the process of peer review for the online neuroscience journal Frontiers for Young Minds. Mark looks forward to sharing his experiences with the BLOOME grant through the website he’s developing at

This project, Plant STEM for K-12 Education, will incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) into activities that encourage children at eight public schools to learn more about plants’ roles in ecosystems, their uses for medicine, materials and fuels. The activities also will help students gain basic literacy on the promises and potential perils of cloning and genetic modification.

The team will plant native gardens at six schools in Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey, with species that will be researched and described by students, connected via Bluetooth beacons, and integrated into a customized mobile app that will allow community members to learn more about each plant. Next they will establish three outdoor carnivorous plant habitats and three mobile carnivorous plant nurseries that will allow children in eight schools to discover ways that research into these species has informed discoveries in neuroscience, liquid-repellent surface materials, and medical adhesives. When winter comes and outdoor plants go dormant, students will investigate biodiversity in the world’s tropical regions, simulate how animal species depend on rainforest plants for survival, and make clones from common houseplants. In the spring, students at two area high schools will lead an investigation into genetic modification that will be shared with elementary and middle schools.

In total, this project will reach 4,294 students in grades K-12, serve as a model to be implemented anywhere in the world, and will be available online for teachers and students to find lesson plans, instructional videos, blog posts, and real-world data aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the 12 Principles of Plant Biology. Assessments will demonstrate what students have learned, and through ongoing (and sustainable) implementation, future scientists will understand the importance of plant biology in our modern world, advocate for plant research, build skills with new technologies, and facilitate communication between diverse groups of students.

BLOOME 2016: Science In Real Life (Science IRL)

A YouTube series that cultivates enthusiasm for science through plant biology


Dr. Elena M. Kramer and Molly Edwards
Harvard University

Science IRL is a YouTube series that provides the missing link between textbook science concepts and scientific research “in real life,” employing plant biology as the exemplar. Science IRL aims to impact viewer attitudes toward science in the following ways:

  1. Increase their enthusiasm for science
  2. Favorably change their perception of scientists
  3. Increase their familiarity with a variety of science careers, especially in plant biology

Under the guidance of Harvard University Professor Elena Kramer, first year graduate student Molly Edwards writes, produces, hosts, and releases monthly Science IRL episodes with the help of a creative team. Science IRL has already released a six-episode first season, and is currently in production of a second season at Harvard.

During the BLOOME grant year, Science IRL will create 10 new episodes that feature guest plant scientists at Harvard and other leading plant biology institutions across the country. The episodes will correspond to ASPB’s 12 Principles of Plant Biology, and are written with a high school audience in mind but are available to all on YouTube. The episodes will be disseminated to New England high school classrooms with the help of Harvard’s Life Sciences Outreach (LSO) Program; on the website of the Amgen Biotech Experience, a curriculum that is implemented by over 70,000 students nationally and internationally; and by leveraging the considerable PR power of Harvard and the other institutions the team visits. Evaluation of the above learning objectives will consist of a pre/post observational study in New England high school classrooms and will be implemented with the assistance of LSO and Harvard’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. With the production equipment purchased and the collaborator network built with ASPB funding, Science IRL will be able to continue its mission long after the grant year is over.

Anyone can check out the existing Science IRL videos already produced and posted on the YouTube channel. The team will be releasing a few more episodes this summer and then the BLOOME episodes begin in September. In addition to posting updates on Plantae, IRL shares announcements and behind the scenes photos on their Facebook page.

Anyone seriously interested in pursuing a BLOOME grant next year may interact with these and other BLOOME PIs in this private Plantae group.


BLOOME 2015: Purple tomatoes, GMOs, and food in a changing climate

Lead Principal Investigator:

Gloria Muday, Wake Forest University


Dr. Carole Gibson and Dr. Hanya E. Chrispeels

Tomatoes are an excellent model system for teaching concepts of genetics because of their vast diversity in traits such as color, size, shape, and flavor; their familiarity as a food; and their importance as an agricultural species. For the past five years the Muday team has successfully implemented a service-learning program (SLP) that teaches genetics using heirloom tomatoes in an active-learning curriculum. This SLP trains undergraduate students enrolled in a non-science majors’ introductory biology course in the SLP curriculum and takes them to middle and high school classrooms to lead the younger students through the curriculum. Although this curriculum has been effective at teaching undergraduates genetics and biotechnology, which has been documented through publications, the assessments have demonstrated that this curriculum is not leading the students to make connections to real world issues that build on plant genetics. So the team will retain this effective model of undergraduates teaching over 1300 local school students each year, but plans to update the curriculum to help students better see how plant genetics is pertinent to their world.

BLOOME 2015: Creating a Field Guide for Grasses and Grass-like Plants of Idaho

Lead Principal Investigator:

Eva Strand, University of Idaho


Karen Launchbaugh and graduate student Justin J. Trujillo

This project will create a user-friendly field guide, with accompanying K-12 lesson plans, for identifying Idaho grasses and grass-like plants, intended for K-16 educators and students, ranchers, land owners, recreationists, and nature enthusiasts in Idaho and adjacent states. In the form of both a printed book and an offline app for iPhones and Androids, the guide will include colorful images showing detailed characteristics and vegetative features of each grass, an easy-to-use dichotomous key, and information on each plant’s history, forage value, fire resistance, and other details.

The team will select, locate and photograph 60 individual grasses, compile information about each plant, design a user-friendly identification key for those with limited background in botany, and develop K-12 lesson plans. Working with an app developer, they will create an offline app identical in content to the field guide. This dual resource will meet the needs of land managers making economic decisions regarding livestock production and field treatments; university students in wildlife and range sciences conducting class exercises and field research; K-12 educators during field botany excursions, teaching the use of dichotomous keys, and ecosystem studies; and recreationists engaged in nature study.

Both book and app will be distributed via the University of Idaho Rangeland Center and the Idaho Range Resource Commission. The guide will be promoted via each center’s website and newsletters, as well as to extension offices, 4-H groups, local media, and school districts.

To evaluate the guide’s functionality, guide books will include addressed, postage-paid survey postcards and the app will provide a link to a Qualtrics online survey. Selected individuals from each intended user group will be interviewed before, during, and after using the field guide to gather feedback for the purpose of improving subsequent editions. Lesson plans will be tested and evaluated by teaching staff at the McCall Outdoor Science School.

Eva’s team will create and maintain a web page directly related to the development of the Field Guide to Grasses and Grass-like Plants of Idaho. This project page will reside on the Idaho Rangeland Center web site.

BLOOME 2015: Plant Biology Exhibit Development in a Service-Learning Plant Physiology Course

Lead Principal Investigator:

Marcia Harrison-Pitaniello

The primary educational goal is to broaden access to plant biology information through museum-type exhibits developed by students in a service-learning plant physiology course. There is a general lack of quality plant science exhibits accessible to the Huntington community and southern West Virginia (WV).

The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences is 50 miles from Huntington, and other science museums are over 100 miles away in Kentucky and Ohio. In addition, these museums offer little plant biology content. The proposed exhibit will be developed for a general public audience, but will also include educational materials (videos, activities, games, etc.) that can be disseminated online. The proposed exhibit development through a service-learning course will provide unique professional development training for Marshall biology students. The project objectives are to:

  1. Develop interactive exhibits to educate and stimulate public interest of plant biology.
  2. Offer a service learning plant physiology course that will develop the materials for each exhibit in collaboration with a local organization.
  3. Display each exhibit at local venues annually, and establish other venues within WV.
  4. Broaden dissemination of the exhibit content using internet resources, presentations, and publications.

The PI’s range of experience for fulfilling these objectives includes:

  • developing educational resources for a plant physiology course
  • presenting materials at community events, on YouTube, the PlantED Digital Library, and at conferences.
  • working as part of the West Virginia State Leadership Team for the Development of Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS)
  • piloting preliminary project components at a community event for the May 18, 2015 Fascination of Plants Day.

A new website with video to accompany the display is available already. New material will be added to this site as it becomes available.


BLOOM 2014: School Woodland Ecosystem Study Project (SWESP)

Dr. Alan Berkowitz, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

In this program, a professional learning community of Teacher Fellows, Cary Institute scientists, and educators will develop a robust curriculum module focused on five key ideas concerning the ecological significance of tree species differences. A learning progression that describes how middle and high school students develop more sophisticated understanding of biodiversity will be integral to the SWESP module.

The primary goal of SWESP is to increase teachers’ and students’ understanding of schoolyard tree diversity so they can develop and test claims that compare functions and services between different communities over time. The project will help teachers establish long-term schoolyard study plots, and then use these plots supported by a curriculum (lesson plans, data collection protocols, guidelines for statistical analysis, background information, and real-life applications) which engages students in primary research.

Teacher Fellows will pilot the curriculum with their students and then train other area teachers during a 2015 Summer Institute. Evaluation will be done through formative and summative assessment of teachers and students (surveys, content knowledge tests and authentic artifacts). The SWESP team will seek to publish evaluation results in education journals. SWESP will be disseminated and sustained through the Cary Institute and their partners’ websites and by training additional students and teachers to use SWESP as part of the Institute’s ongoing programs.

BLOOME: Plant Educational Experience in Research (PEER)

Dr. Mario Izaquirre-Sierra, Northern New Mexico College

Plant Educational Experience in Research (PEER) at Northern New Mexico College a Boot camp/Outreach Program.

PEER is a new program created to elevate interest in plant science and agriculture for K-12 students in a region that has almost no programming or resources in this area of science education. The integrated team of experts set to manage PEER includes undergraduates and faculty from Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) and teachers in community schools. Students engaged with PEER will experience relevant and stimulating laboratory activities designed to catalyze curiosity and understanding about science, biology, technology, plant science and using plants as a tool. Additionally, they will gain awareness of and experience with higher education resources. Two important long-term goals for PEER are to:

  • Increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students intending to pursue higher education, particularly in science.
  • Boost the recruitment and retention of the current NNMC Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science undergraduate student population because of their involvement with the PEER outreach and Boot Camp.

The PEER team will disseminate their experiences, materials, and approaches in national science and education meetings. PEER mentors will present seminars or posters annually during the NMMC symposium. A PEER program website will promote student-to-student interactions and archive the program’s multidisciplinary, bilingual and bicultural story.

BLOOME 2014: Introducing Basic Biotech Teaching Techniques in High Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa-Ghana-Phase 2

Dr. Marian Dorcas Quain, Crops Research Institute

Introducing Basic Biotech Teaching Techniques in High Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa-Ghana-Phase 2

Phase 1 of this project identified and addressed specific gaps in the teacher training and student learning opportunities available for plant biology and biotechnology in Ghana. The project’s new website offers some of what has been developed; more will be posted soon.

Phase 1 stimulated curiosity and revealed misconceptions about biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among teachers and students. So Phase 2 will respond to the crucial need to provide intensive education about modern biotechnology. Phase 2 also will expand the program to infuse modern biotechnology, biology and integrated science curriculum throughout more schools across Ghana.

In Phase 2 high school teachers will learn basic concepts and skills related to GMOs. Other key program objectives are to:

• Encourage constructive debate on the topic among high school students
• Introduce the use of molecular biology teaching models in high school and teacher training colleges
• Train teachers who benefitted from Phase 1 to train other teachers
• Ensure heads of schools and/or science departments in the participating schools have a basic concept of biotechnology and genomics

Evaluation results and resources will be disseminated with an eye to revising Ghana’s entire science curriculum. The Phase 2 team will communicate with the Ghana Education Service, the Ghana Ministries of Education (ME), Environmental Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI); the Director General and Director of Education of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Ghana, the Parliamentary select committee on education; the Ghana Association of Science Teachers (GAST); Science, Technology and Mathematics Innovations Education of Ghana; the International Training and Educational Consultancy program in Ghana; and the USAID representative in Ghana. Project information also will be shared with the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development biotechnology platform to encourage program adoption in the West African sub-region.

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