Sharing the excitement of planarian biology
You don't need to be a professional scientist to be amazed by an animal that can regenerate its head (complete with eyes and a brain) in a little over a week! Planarians are ideally suited to science outreach projects, not only because they capture the imagination of students of all ages, but also because they are easy and inexpensive to maintain, and the regenerative response can be observed under a simple dissecting microscope or even a magnifying glass.
Our lab participates in a variety of science outreach activities throughout the academic year and summer. Most notably, we conduct an annual project with Monadnock Regional High School in which honors biology students design and carry out original experiments to test their own hypotheses about planarian regeneration. At the end of the three-week lab, students present their results in a poster session for their teachers and families. Our local newspaper, the Keene Sentinel, wrote a story about the project and its impacts on student learning. We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for funding this work.
We also participate in an annual "Tech Camp" on regenerative medicine for secondary education teachers and students, with funding from an NIH Science Education Partnership Award. And we provide frequent tours of our lab and overviews of planarian biology (including opportunities for students to observe and dissect animals under a microscope) on a year-round basis.
If you're an educator interested in developing a planarian-based laboratory activity for your class, or visiting us with your students to learn more about our work, please contact us. We try to accommodate as many outreach requests as possible.
Photo © Will Wrobel