2018 CAPS Education & Outreach Year-in-Review

February 1, 2019
Students work with ABRC & CAPS staff to clean soybean roots

The Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS), together with the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center (ABRC), supports a growing suite of outreach and education programs designed to raise awareness about the important role plants play in our daily lives, promote the inclusion of plant sciences in K-12 education, and engage learners of all ages in fun, hands-on science experiences. Through a combination of on-campus programming, classroom visits, school events, community partnerships, and professional development workshops, CAPS and ABRC reached more than 6,500 individuals in 2018. This number represents a significant increase in our Centers’ outreach impact, and includes more than 5,100 members of the general public, 800 K-16 students, 550 K-12 teachers and 70 faculty, staff, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. Our outreach impact not only grew in terms of total attendance but also in reach. In addition to reaching students in five Central Ohio school districts, our programs were experienced by students in classrooms across Ohio (Cincinnati and Springfield), in other states (New Jersey), and in Canada.  

CAPS and ABRC, together with partners from the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and the Office of Energy and Environment, once again served as organizers for the annual WestFest event. WestFest showcases advances in science, technology, sustainability and outreach from The Ohio State University in an interactive, family-friendly event that draws people to Ohio State’s often overlooked West Campus. In addition to WestFest, CAPS participated in other main and regional campus events including Breakfast of Science Champions and Science of Agriculture. Beyond campus, CAPS participated in the November Franklinton Friday event at the STEAM Factory, and facilitated activities at the Ohio State Fair.

CAPS has strong partnerships with both COSI and the Franklin Park Conservatory. The Center participates in school programs and community events held by each organization on an annual basis. In 2018, CAPS and ABRC facilitated plant science activities at a COSI After Dark program, and served as supporting sponsors for COSI’s annual Farm Days event. In addition, CAPS and PhD fellows from the Translational Plant Sciences (TPS) graduate program co-developed an interactive videoconference program with COSI educators, which is made available to middle and high school classes across the United States.

Our partnership with the Franklin Park Conservatory (FPC) also provides unique opportunities to connect with the community and local students interested in learning more about plant sciences. For the second year in a row, CAPS and ABRC participated in FPC’s Pollinator Palooza event. In addition, we serve as a program partner for FPC’s new Green STEM Girls after school program at the Columbus City Prep School for Girls. This new program highlights women in science while engaging middle school students in science and sustainability focused programming. As a part of this partnership, women scientists, graduate students and staff from CAPS, ABRC and TPS visit the Green STEM Girls program to talk about their careers and facilitate plant science activities.  

A new initiative added to this year’s outreach and education programs included a focus on professional development of CAPS members and the Ohio State research community. To this end, CAPS co-sponsored two workshops in 2018. In June, CAPS hosted two trainers from the National Alliance for Broader Impacts who led a day-long Broader Impacts Workshop for faculty, staff, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. Later in the year, CAPS hosted Dr. Jory Weintraub, Science Communication Director for the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, to facilitate a science communication workshop. These two workshops were co-sponsored by the Office of Outreach and Engagement and the STEAM Factory respectively. Other professional development resources offered through CAPS include quarterly Broader Impacts Brainstorming sessions and a bi-monthly broader impacts newsletter.

As we move into 2019, CAPS is looking forward to continuing its commitment to public outreach, education and community partnerships.