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Williams College professor Martha Marvin works with Brayton Elementary School pupils as part of the BioEYES science program.
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Williams College students teach biology lessons to pupils at Brayton Elementary School on Friday.

Williams' BioEYES Program Expanding to Six More Schools

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Brayton third-graders look at zebrafish hearts through a microscope.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — For 10 years, North County elementary students have been learning about how zebrafish populations multiply and grow through the BioEYES science program.
 
This year, the program itself is multiplying with plans to go into more than twice as many schools throughout the region.
 
BioEYES, a curriculum developed by the University of Pennsylvania, has been used for a decade by Williams College professor Martha Marvin and Williams students to teach about genetics and basic biology in third- and fourth-grade classrooms.
 
The outreach started modestly, with Marvin and a single collegian, at Williamstown Elementary School. This month, the program is back at Williamstown, Lanesborough Elementary and North Adams' Brayton Elementary, with more than a dozen Williams students who teach the program as a Winter Study course at the college, Williams' Director of Elementary Outreach Jennifer Swoap said on Friday.
 
Swoap talked about the program as Marvin led a culminating discussion with two dozen Brayton third-graders, who spent the week learning about zebrafish and broader scientific principles, like using Punnett squares to predict genetic variation.
 
Even with Swoap, Williams Center for Learning in Action liaison Renee Schiek, community volunteers and all those college students, the program is "maxed out," with the three elementary schools where it can run weeklong BioEYES programs during each monthlong winter session at the college.
 
The solution: Teach the teachers.
 
In November, Williams conducted training in the BioEYES curriculum at the daylong Berkshire Compact professional development day.
 
As a result of that outreach, it plans to take BioEYES to Pittsfield's Morningside and Williams elementary schools, Lenox's Morris Elementary, Hancock Elementary, Pownal (Vt.) Elementary and Pittsfield's Taconic High School in the spring. The UPenn program has a separate curriculum for high school students.
 
"Right now, we're working with those teachers," Swoap said. "They would teach the course in their classrooms, and we would provide all the microscopes and the fish. And then Dr. Marvin would go on the final day to do her presentation, and Renee and I would do support on at least one or two of the other days."
 
On Friday at Brayton, the kids thrilled to see the maturing fish under the microscope and observe the beating of their miniscule hearts.
 
Marvin explained that those tiny organs are at the heart of her research at Williams.
 
"You might ask, 'Who wants to cure heart disease in fish?' " Marvin told the children. "Maybe we want to cure heart disease more in humans than fish, right?
 
"The point of doing research in fish is that fish are a lot like humans, even though they don't look it. The genes that you use to build a fish are the same as the genes you use to build a human. ... The same gene that causes heart problems in humans also causes fish to have weak hearts."
 
Williams' BioEYES program has been a yearly staple at Williamstown Elementary since its beginning 10 years ago. This week marked at least the fourth year at Brayton, and this January's lessons will conclude with the program's fourth annual stop at Lanesborough Elementary Jan. 22 to 25, Swoap said.
 
"We've wanted to reach out to Pittsfield, but the distance makes it difficult to do it over Winter Study with the Williams students," she said. "But it's a great program, and Dr. Marvin is willing to share her time.
 
"The model they use at UPenn in Baltimore is they do teacher trainings and the teachers do it in their classroom. So that's what we're trying to emulate. ... It seems like it's a good way for Williams to support science in schools that are a little bit further afield."

Tags: life sciences,   STEM,   Williams College,   

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North Adams Fire Chief Meranti to Retire

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Fire Chief Stephen Meranti, center, with the late Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco on receiving the MEMA award in 2015. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Stephen Meranti had a particular goal in mind when he updated his resume in the mid-1990s: to become director of the city's fire services.
 
Early next year, he'll retire after 17 years leading the North Adams Fire Department and as the first "fire chief" to retire in nearly 40 years. 
 
"I've had a pretty good run I think, 33 years with the city and 17 as chief," said Meranti on Wednesday morning, as he sat in the mayor's office. "It's been a good run, we have great people working with the city, I've had made great relationships here. It's like the mayor said, bittersweet for me also. I love the job I but I had planned on my career retiring at 55 and here I am." 
 
Meranti and Mayor Thomas Bernard announced the chief's retirement after more than three decades working with the city. His last day will be Jan. 26, 2021.
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