Williams College "BioEYES" Students Bring Hands-On Science to Third-Grade Classrooms

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: 413-597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., January 18, 2018—During Winter Study, 11 Williams College students are teaching in third grade science classes in three schools over the course of three weeks. The program, BioEYES, is a week of hands-on science lessons in which elementary students mate live zebrafish and examine the eggs under a microscope to learn about life cycles, development, heredity, and the environment.

For the past seven years, Williams has brought BioEYES to local elementary schools. The BioEYES program serves Williamstown Elementary School, Brayton Elementary School in North Adams, and as of last year, Lanesborough Elementary School, and is adapted from a program at the University of Pennsylvania. The college students spend one week at each school. Because zebrafish breed quickly, third graders are able to observe their zebrafish embryos develop into free-swimming larva and observe the changes firsthand.

During the first week of Winter Study, the Williams students learn to set up fish matings, about embryonic development, and the genetics of fish pigmentation. The course is organized and taught by Jennifer Swoap, former third grade teacher and director of elementary outreach at the Center for Learning in Action at Williams College (CLiA); Renee Schiek, CLiA contact with Lanesborough Elementary; and Martha Marvin, lecturer in neuroscience.

The Williams students create lesson plans for and teach the third grade classes during the program. The class draws from all majors, ranging from biology to theatre. “Impacting attitudes towards science is the real win of BioEYES. BioEYES makes science accessible for both Williams students and elementary students. Science is exciting, evidence based, and fun especially when done with third graders and live fish!” says Swoap.

While the Winter Study program currently visits the maximum possible number of schools, Swoap says that the program may expand to the greater Berkshire area in the coming years. A BioEYES teacher training is planned for November 2018 and will take place during the Berkshire Compact Professional Development Day. Interested teachers will learn about the BioEYES program and how they can implement it at their schools. Williams would continue to support the program at these schools by supplying zebrafish, microscopes, equipment, and journals.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.