Immersion Science Program for Science Teachers: Frequently Asked Questions

Immersion Science

Q: What are the goals of the Immersion Science Program (ISP) for Science Teachers?
The program has two goals. The first is to train teachers in experimental approaches to cancer research and to provide them with the materials to utilize the techniques, concepts, and experimental outline in their home schools in alignment with CORE curriculum and science standards. The second is to develop a research training program that will enable teachers and their students to partake in real-time cancer research experiments using (a) dietary supplements and (b) the fruit fly as a model organism.

Q: When are the sessions held?
 The Immerson Science Program hosts local science teachers (middle and high school) for a no-cost, 8-week program (usually in the fall). Each Saturday class runs for three hours, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Q: How does the teacher program differ from the student program?
In addition to a modified “boot-camp,” we work with teachers' curriculum and syllabus to match experiments that will be work for your home classroom's needs. At the end of the session, teachers run a mock class using ISP graduates as an interactive student base.

Q: How does the selection process work?
As we work to grow the ISP Community and the number of classrooms that use ISP techniques, we welcome teachers from the tri-state area to complete the T-ISP application. The program can accommodate up to 8 teachers per session.

Q: How does the onboarding process work?
The onboarding processes for both our Student ISP and Teacher ISP are completed through the Fox Chase Cancer Center Office of Volunteer Services. Information regarding this process will be included in “welcome” materials to be sent to participants.

Q: How did the ISP for Science Teachers come to be?
The following is a timeline of the program, which began with the high school program in 2013.

April 2013: The high school training program, now know as the Immersion Science Program, at Fox Chase Cancer Center had its re-launch with the first bi-annual Health Careers Symposium. This was quickly followed by the pilot high school student program. What had been slated for only 8 seats had such a positive application response that it was raised to two sessions of 8. We had an overwhelming sense of “Wow! We can teach high school students to do cancer research!” Unfortunately, we could only reach 16 students. The idea to see the ripples in the pond spread faster came as the high school teacher Immersion Science Program (T-ISP) came to be.

Fall 2013: We invited four local high school teachers to take a modified version of the student course. Two of the teachers went on to utilize the techniques of the ISP in their home schools.

February 2014: We were the recipients of a private donation, which funded our outfitting a mobile Footlocker. This rolling box of science is equipped with the materials needed for the teachers of our T-ISP to take the projects, techniques, and protocols from the Teaching Lab directly into their classrooms.

Fall 2014: We were joined by three additional high school teachers. Again, we are excited to announce that two teachers are working to bring Immersion Science into their home schools, one via the Footlocker and one through cross-curricular work and readings of The Inner Fish.

May 2015: We hosted the second bi-annual Immersion Science Health Careers Symposium and welcomed over 230 high school teachers and students to enjoy a day of talks and hands-on labs and demonstrations.

Fall 2015: We welcomed 6 more Philly-Metro-NJ Area high school teachers to the Immersion Science Community; in addition, Dara Ruiz-Whalen, educational director and Immersion Science program director, was an invited presentor at the regional NSTA conference held in Philadelphia. There, she shared some of the techniques that T-ISPers bring into their classrooms.

Winter (early) 2016: Alana O’Reilly is awarded an SDB Education Activities Grant from The Society for Developmental Biology. The Academy at Palumbo and Abraham Lincoln High School within the Philadelphia School District work collaboratively using the fruit fly as a model organism. The Immersion Science Program also outsourced data collection to high school biology classrooms for mapping the effects of dietary components on Drosophila melanogaster development.

Spring 2016: Nazareth Academy (PA) and Kingsway Regional (NJ) High Schools are among those whose T-ISP participants have brought Immersion Science into their home classrooms.

Q: What do teachers who have participated in the program have to say?
Teachers who have taken part in the program have had great things to say! Here are some examples.

“One of my colleagues participated in the Career symposium in the spring and told me that I should check out the teacher program. I decided to apply and enroll in the program and quickly  realized it was unlike any other program that I have participated in as a teacher. I enjoyed working with and learning from Dara and Alana, and my fellow classmates were awesome! As a teacher, I am constantly looking for ways to prepare my students for college and careers in science. This program is absolutely what I was looking for. I am glad that I have developed a relationship with the ISP team because I know they will help me grow as a teacher and support my students in conducting cancer research in the classroom.” –J. Stark, Kingsway Regional High School (’15)

“I thought that this was a great opportunity to update my knowledge and lab skills in the area of genetics. My students were participating in the program, and they were teaching me new things as their experiences grew. I wanted to keep up with them” –N. Ferrant, North Penn High School (’14)

“The workshop allowed me to think and experience the moment as the student. That set my mind into the planning stage and helped me think about how I could incorporate this experience into my classroom…. My goal is to continue to develop this experiment each year. This development I hope will help instill in my students the fascination of learning and discovering science beyond the textbook.” –C. Aichele, Academy at Palumbo High School (’13)

“The T-ISP program was a refreshing, productive way to spend a bunch of Saturday mornings. Working with engaged and curious educators from around the region, tuning up lab skills, participating in active cancer research while applying developmental biology, molecular biology, and genetics concepts, and getting to brainstorm connections to the high school curriculum. So fun. Well worth your time if you're looking to move your class out of the textbook and into the 21st century.” –G. Cohen, Central High School (’15)

“I had the opportunity of working and sharing ideas with other teachers I may not have had the good fortune of otherwise meeting. This was time well spent, and I encourage other teachers to embrace this pivotal opportunity.”  –P. Miller, Abraham Lincoln High School (’13)

"I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Immersion Science Program. I was very interested in the mission of this program and then was completely amazed by both Dara's and Alana's dedication to providing a program that creates and entices science research opportunities for high school students and teachers. As a science educator, I love the learning process, and this program allowed me to become a student again while creating great lessons to bring back to my own classroom. The pedagogy between the science teachers during our time in the ISP lab was very refreshing and productive. We had great brainstorming sessions and a lot of laughs. Now my students in my Freshmen Honors Biology class are excited to continue the research project started at T-ISP." –K. Gallen, Nazareth Academy High School (’15)

Q: How do I find out more information?
For more information, please contact Dara Ruiz-Whalen, program director, at