June 20th, 2018

GiS Spotlight: Mr. Michael Pedicini, 2018 Constellation Award - Northeast Region

The Constellation Award celebrates an educational institution’s collective enthusiasm for science and space. The five awards are given to the educational institution with the highest number of submissions from each of the major US geographic regions. MfA Master Teacher Mr. Michael Pedicini of Forest Hills High School in Forest Hills, New York is the 2018 Constellation Award winner for the Northeast region. We asked Mr. Pedicini a few questions about his Genes in Space experience. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your school:

I teach at Forest Hills High School a NYC public school in Queens. I have been teaching for 12 years and have taught living environment, AP Biology, and a STEM fundamentals class. I spend part of the year focusing on science research with my students. Genes in Space was an excellent way to take students through the experimental design process and expose them to advanced biology content. I really like that my high school has such a diverse population of students from many different backgrounds and with many interests. We are a large school with 3,800 students and have many specialized programs. I am a part of our science program called Sagan STEM. I mainly teach ninth graders but have worked with 9-12 graders. Interestingly, some of my current and former students have interest in studying astrobiology or working for NASA, and space research.

2018 Constellation

Mr. Pedicini's students

What was it like to use Genes in Space as a classroom activity? 

Genes in Space was a really great activity for my classroom and it linked well to my experimental design curriculum for research. We started Genes in Space after students learned about writing a research paper and using science resources to plan an experiment. The Genes in Space website was very helpful and my students used it extensively. The educational videos summarizing key processes related to biotechnology definitely built my students content knowledge. Also, guides, previous information on winners, and links to NASA and other research all helped my students with their proposals.

What did your students gain by participating in Genes in Space?

Students in our Sagan STEM program gained a lot from participating. They got exposed to concepts and scientific thinking that they usually wouldn't see until later classes. They also got to see connections between biology and space sciences. Overall, my students seem engaged by this competition and it empowered them to see themselves as potential science researchers.

Do you have any advice for teachers thinking about using Genes in Space in their classrooms?

I attended a Genes in Space workshop in the spring of 2016 hosted by miniPCR and Genes in Space co-founder, Ezequiel Alvarez-Saavedra. I thought it was an incredible experience, and Zeke did a great job training the teachers in how to bring this back to our classrooms. If any teachers can attend one of these workshops it is a great way to learn about miniPCR and gel electrophoresis. I definitely felt like I was ready to participate after attending this workshop.

2018 Constellation

Forest Hills High School teachers Matt Woo, Michael Pedicini, and Lisa Homer. They all mentored students participating in Genes in Space.