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Students in science Lab
Scientific Discovery for the Classroom

ABE Stories

Winnie Litten

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Oak Park, CA USA
Headshot for Winnie Litten
ABE Participating School:
Oak Park High School
Subject and Grade Taught:
Honors, A.P. and College Prep Biology, 10th grade
Years Teaching:
26
Years Participating in ABE:
24
You might just light a fire in a student that didn’t think they could do science before, and that kid could solve a problem that we desperately need an answer to. That’s pretty powerful.

Unique Journey to Teaching & ABE

Winnie Litten may have come from a family of educators, but she didn’t realize her passion for teaching until she was studying pre-med in college. A frequent tutor for her university’s biology department, Winnie quickly got a reputation for making the challenging curriculum understandable and fun. It didn’t take long for Winnie to switch majors and get her teaching credentials.  With her strong science background, Winnie was hooked on the idea of bringing the Amgen Biotech Experience to her high school after a fellow colleague told her about a ‘new program’ being offered by the Amgen Foundation in the early 1990’s. During just her second year of teaching, Winnie applied to ABE and has been teaching students how to ‘manipulate DNA’ ever since, even creating a You-Tube channel to share her lesson plans with other science teachers across her district!

ABE Classroom Impact

Why do you participate in the Amgen Biotech Experience?
I want to give my students every opportunity to participate in a significant lab like this. When I tell parents what their kids are going to be learning because of the Amgen Biotech Experience, they are constantly blown away and often tell me they wish they were in my class. I’m a better teacher because of ABE.
How has the Amgen Biotech Experience helped to engage your students in new ways? (e.g., hands-on laboratory experience, good curriculum, classroom tools/resources etc.)
ABE helps students understand science better by making it more of an open discussion. Students make connections to things they see in the real world and on the news. My kids actually bring articles into the classroom related to genetic engineering!
What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?
My students doing real science and being excited about it. When they go to college with this lab in their toolbelt, they go to college lab courses feeling very confident, because this isn’t the first time they’ve experienced a real lab.
Can you share an example of a story where you witnessed a student ‘ah ha’ moment and begin to experience more interest in science?
During the O.J. Simpson trial, a local Los Angeles T.V. station interviewed my students to explain how prosecutors could use DNA as evidence. At that time in the mid-90’s, many people didn’t understand how DNA worked but my students did!
What impact has ABE had on your students, school and community?
ABE has helped me inspire over 4,300 students over the past 24 years. Many of those students still keep in touch, saying ABE was ‘game-changing’ moment in their education and ultimately, career path. I have enormous gratitude for the Amgen Foundation and ABE. It’s a true benchmark and hallmark for my class.
What kind of support (i.e. professional development) do STEM teachers need to be effective and spark a love for science in their classroom?
I think there are three things every STEM teacher needs to be successful, including… 1. Understanding the science they’re teaching 2. Proper training and tools 3. Access to dynamic curriculum to inspire their kids
Name the three most valuable things that science teachers would get out of participating in ABE.
1. The opportunity to do a lab that is normally financially out of reach 2. A chance to give your students the opportunity to participate in a cutting-edge lab that supports both Common Core and NGSF (Next Generation Science Standards) 3. You might just light a fire in a student that didn’t think they could do science before, and that kid could solve a problem that we desperately need an answer to. That’s pretty powerful.

AmgenAmgen Biotech Experience is an international program funded by the Amgen Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)