Have you ever refused a $100 gift certificate? What about a free breakfast? If there was a good opportunity for your students to compete for a $500 book scholarship to be used during their first semester of college, would you encourage them to enter? Would you like to see your graduating seniors wear a green cord at graduation to let others know that they had maintained a 3.0 grade point average in the sciences? NABT has a program for high school and community college students called the BioClub that makes all of the above – and more – possible. As a member of NABT, you can start a BioClub in your school, and it will not cost you a single penny! If you already sponsor some type of science club, you can have that group become a member of the BioClub, and you can even keep your current club name if you like. The application process will take you about 2 minutes to complete, so what are you waiting for? Go to NABT.org, click on the BioClub name on the left-hand side, find the BioClub application, fill it out, and send it in. It couldn’t be simpler. Let’s take a look at how the BioClub got started.

The idea of a national biology club for high school students (and now in community colleges as well) came to me several years ago, but I could never capture the attention of anyone to listen to me. At the Atlanta NABT Conference, however, I ran into outgoing NABT President Pat Waller and asked her if I could spend 10 minutes with her to discuss an idea. She said, “Of course.” When I presented the idea of a biology club to her, she thought that it was a great idea and told me that she would present it to the NABT Board in January 2008. The Board asked me to submit a proposal outlining exactly what I had in mind and how I would get it started. Ultimately, they enthusiastically gave me the OK to proceed. If Pat had not given me her time, the BioClub would still be a dream.

I wanted to get a lot of teachers involved from the very beginning, so NABT sent out an e-mail to all their high school members asking anyone who was interested in the adventure to get in touch with me. The response was phenomenal. I was determined to use all of the people who were interested, so I formed several committees, making use of all who had contacted me. Those initial committees came up with everything that was necessary to form the BioClub, and off we went. My goal was to start the BioClub by the beginning of the 2008 school year. NABT was skeptical that we would be ready by then, and they suggested that maybe January 2009 would be a good start date. Being the very determined person that I am, I made sure that the committees got everything organized, and the BioClub was born at the beginning of the 2008 school year – right on schedule! There are currently more than 70 BioClubs, including one in Canada, so we are an international club now. We are adding about one or two clubs every month.

NABT has been very supportive of the BioClub. They were so impressed with the way things were going that they made the BioClub a Section of NABT. The American Biology Teacher lists every club in each issue, and articles that would be appropriate for high school teachers to read/use with their BioClub groups are identified with the BioClub logo. Carolina Biological wanted to support the BioClub from the very beginning, so they set up a book scholarship for a deserving senior member going to college and a community college student going to a four-year school. A BioClub Blog was established as a way for the different chapters to communicate with each other about their activities. Both the blog and the new Facebook page are very popular additions.

The goal was to establish a national biology club for high school students, and that has been achieved. It was to be a group organized and run by high school teachers, and that has been accomplished. The mission statement of the BioClub sums it up best: “The mission of the NABT BioClub is to recruit, support, nurture, and promote students with an interest in biological sciences for personal reasons, academic preparation, the betterment of society, and career opportunities by providing guidance, resources, and activities to meet these goals.” The students in the BioClub are the real winners of this effort. The BioClub will experience continued growth for many years to come.

Here are some of the activities that the current 71 active BioClubs have been doing this past school year:

Marysville High School, Marysville, KS – Kim Houtz, Faculty Advisor

This year the BioClub had 49 members, and they have been instrumental in recycling for the high school and the community. The BioClub had a Christmas party with the Art Club and created Christmas decorations out of recyclable plastics and other disposable items. They also worked with the elementary students in the district on science concepts and celebrated DNA Day, Darwin Day, and Earth Day. For Earth Day, the BioClub members worked together to start plants and give them to teachers in the district for planting. Members coordinated efforts with the Marysville City Tree Committee to plant trees in parks and along new walking trails.

The Prince of Peace Catholic School, Clinton, IA – Katharine Atkinson, Faculty Advisor

The Prince of Peace Catholic School BioClub works with the ChemClub to sponsor a school-wide “Mole Day” hand-washing spa. Students from all classes, K–12, visited the high school science lab on October 23, learned a little about chemistry, and scrubbed up with the school’s own Sugar Scrub recipe. They had to set up stepping-stools so the smallest students could reach the sinks. It was a fun day for all, and a great day for clean hands!

Tiffin Columbian High School, Tiffin, OH – Chris Monsour, Faculty Advisor

The 25-member TC BioClub had a very active school year. They created a pumpkin carving for the Seneca County Parks October Fest, sponsored a blood drive with the Red Cross, completed a river study of the Sandusky River, and planned a food drive for December.

Skyline High School Sammamish, WA – Gretel Von Bargen, Faculty Advisor

Since 2010, the Skyline High School Biology Club has been assisting with an ongoing duck-nesting project. The Hazel Wolf Wetland Reserve is a protected wetland located 1 mile from the school. The wetland is home to a tree-cavity-nesting duck, the wood duck (Aix sponsa). Twice a year, members of the club spend a day in the field checking the status of 20 duck nesting boxes hung from trees around the reserve. In the spring, the students fill the nesting boxes with bedding material in preparation for the hens to use in nest formation. In the fall, after the birds have migrated away, the students carefully remove the nests from the boxes. During nest extraction, students were able to briefly look at the nests for signs of success, but further investigation occurred at the Biology Club meeting a week later.

At each Skyline Biology Club meeting, students work with a local wood duck expert to “dissect” the wood duck nests. Students take apart the nests layer by layer, observing the characteristics of the nests and any pieces of debris left behind, including moss, wet wood shavings, egg shrouds, and even the occasional full egg. The club is determining whether variables such as amount of light, closeness to a hiking trail, and proximity to water influence nesting success. This year, all the wood duck nests were deemed “very successful,” with many egg shrouds in each of the nests, indicating that wood ducks had nested there and the ducklings had hatched.

George Mason High School, Falls Church, VA – Peter Mecca, Faculty Advisor

The Environmental Club/BioClub at George Mason High School provides opportunities for students to develop an understanding of, and connection to, the natural environment.

During the past few years, student members have worked on a number of projects, both on and off campus, related to energy use, landscaping, and recycling. Below is a brief description of some of the projects undertaken by club members.

Working with the district’s facilities manager, students surveyed teachers and placed recycling bins in classrooms that lacked or needed new bins. Recycling bins were clearly marked with signs designed and developed by students. With assistance from both the facilities manager and the food services manager, students initiated and implemented the Cafeteria Greening Program. This program helped replace plastic trays with biodegradable ones. Students are currently examining how to curtail the sale of plastic water bottles on campus and how to install water refilling stations for nondisposable water bottles. Also, funds from a Green Schools Grant were used to purchase motion-detector light sensors for installation in some classrooms as part of the effort to reduce energy use throughout the high school.

Club members designed and constructed three gardens to enhance the campus landscape. The gardens contain native plants that can serve as wildlife habitats for local fauna. The gardens reduce mowing and, hence, greenhouse gases. In addition to the gardens, a solar-powered flagpole was purchased and installed outside the main entrance of the high school.

For community service, club members assisted city officials with tree plantings in local neighborhoods and participated in annual fall and spring cleanup campaigns within the city. They also designed and sold reusable cloth shopping bags to reduce the use and negative impact of plastic bags. Finally, club members designed and assisted with the installation of rain barrels to control stormwater runoff from the roof of the high school. The water is reused in the gardens.

East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC – Kelly Allen, Faculty Advisor

The members of biology club are students interested and qualified to take the Biology or Chemistry Olympiad. These students were identified through Dr. Bob, who has taught a majority of biology and chemistry students. The primary objective of the club is to prepare the students for the test, but it has also been arranged that they enter in the Exploravision contest. The contest asks students in small groups to predict what technology might be like 20 years from now and present it in the form of a research paper. Winning teams get recognition, money, and Toshiba gear. Most of the students are one or two years away from taking their AP class, and they benefit from study materials and review sessions. Since teaching others is a great review, members are connected to Science Olympiad. This event includes several biology/chemistry-based activities (Designer Genes/Anatomy/Chem Lab, etc.), so when Biology club members help the JV teams prepare for the regional competition, a symbiotic relationship is created.

These are pretty impressive activities for high school students. The big question is “When are you going to start a BioClub at your high school or community college?” For more information, go to http://www.NABT.org or contact Andrew Corless (BioClub Section Chair) at acorless@gmail.com.