MdBioLab Education Disaster Recovery Program

MdBioLab is a mobile disaster recovery STEM education program serving schools impacted by hurricanes and other disasters. Using a self-contained science classroom on wheels as its home base, the program provides teaching space and scientific equipment, lab supplies, during- and after-school activities, and public outreach to communities whose classrooms and science labs have been damaged or destroyed.

The impact on students, schools, and teachers following a natural disaster extends far beyond the initial event and can require years of community recovery. Creating a sense of normalcy and helping alleviate students’ toxic stress post-disaster is critical to help communities return to normal. One way to help children reengage with school is to help create resiliency education programs that can be quickly deployed following a disaster event. Learning Undefeated has established a successful model for achieving this within days of a disaster.

Learning Undefeated’s disaster recovery education program supports neighborhoods, students, teachers, and families who may struggle to engage their students in learning during the recovery period. The program features hands-on learning activities for students during the school day, as well as afterschool programs designed to reengage students with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects in a supportive and positive atmosphere.

Flexible STEM Education for Disaster Impacted Communities

The flagship component of Learning Undefeated is a 45-foot wet lab housed in a tractor trailer, which can accommodate classes of up to 32 students. The mobile laboratory is fully self-contained, with its own power and water supply. As a mobile unit, it can serve a different school each day or serve a single school for a longer period of time.

Schools may choose from nearly a dozen hands-on biology, chemistry, forensics, and environmental science activities suitable for grades 6-12. The flexible curriculum connects relevant issues in STEM discovery to the recovery effort, allowing students to explore topics such as water quality and filtration, DNA extraction, genetics and heredity, wildlife forensics, and testing soil for contaminants. Learning Undefeated’s curriculum has been developed over fifteen years and has served more than 150,000 high school students since its creation in 2003. Learn more about Learning Undefeated’s mobile lab curriculum >

The Learning Undefeated program also includes an equipment loan component and professional development for teachers who have classroom space but lack the supplies needed for laboratory experiments.

The Learning Undefeated Story

Moved by a story on the evening news about the devastation to schools and communities caused by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Learning Undefeated raised corporate funds to send one of its mobile labs to the disaster-impacted area.

Moved by the hurricane damage in Houston and along the gulf bend region of Texas, Learning Undefeated’s staff raised the funding to send the mobile laboratory to southeast Texas in November 2017. In just two weeks, Learning Undefeated’s team saw every K-12 student in the 400-student district during a 4-day visit to Port Aransas (outside of Corpus Christi). The following week, the lab served two Houston schools including a magnet school that draws students from more than 100 schools across the city, many of which were devastated during the Hurricane.

What began as an emotional response to a natural disaster has grown into a robust education program serving more than 15,000 K-12 students across the Texas gulf coast over nearly two years. See news coverage of Learning Undefeated education recovery efforts >

With the country’s first STEM-focused education recovery program Learning Undefeated has served more than 30 distinct communities along Hurricane Harvey’s path, from Corpus Christi along the gulf bend and East to the Louisiana border. The lab has served some of the hardest-hit areas of the state, helping students and teachers re-engage with STEM education even in locations where schools are not yet open.

Program Hallmarks

Learning Undefeated’s disaster recovery education program emphasizes engaging, hands-on STEM learning experiences designed to help students re-engage with learning during a time when disaster-related stresses could otherwise distract. Key tenets of the program include:

  • Full self-contained STEM education mobile unit – fuel, water, etc., etc.
  • Trained staff to support school-based staff and local community leaders
  • Authentic, hands-on laboratory learning experiences
  • Engaging subject matter tied to real-world careers
  • Near-peer mentorship model, providing STEM role models from within the students’ communities
  • Emergency power and charging stations

The program also trains and empowers teachers to operate and run the lab, allowing them to teach their own curriculum — catching up their students from many months without a working laboratory space, and allowing teachers to meet state educational requirements for in-laboratory time.

Disaster Recovery Program Impacts

To date, Learning Undefeated has served more than 15,000 students in Hurricane Harvey-impacted communities across south Texas including the communities of Refugio, Wharton, Port Aransas, Bloomington, Woodsboro, Aransas Pass, Port Arthur, Vidor, Taft, Little Cyress, Mauriceville, and Houston.

Following the Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery program, Learning Undefeated surveyed teachers in three school districts, representing 3,850 students served by the mobile laboratory during the disaster education recovery period of November 2017 – February 2019.  Teachers reported the following outcomes.

  • 100% of teachers reported that the Learning Undefeated mobile laboratory provided vital equipment and/or supplies that they could not access due to damage to their school and/or classroom.
  • 100% of teachers reported that the Learning Undefeated mobile laboratory increased their students’ ability to focus on learning during a difficult time.
  • 100% of teachers reported that the Learning Undefeated mobile laboratory visit allowed them to teach content that would have otherwise been omitted or skipped.
  • 75% of teachers reported that the Learning Undefeated mobile laboratory allowed their students to achieve the course requirements for laboratory learning.
  • 67% of teachers reported that their students would have missed out on laboratory learning without the Learning Undefeated mobile laboratory coming to their school.

Make it Happen

We invite you to make an impact in communities impacted disasters.  For more information, contact Alejandro Cardemil by email or call 240.552.9313.

Activity Topics

  • Acid/base titration
  • Agarose gel electrophoresis
  • Antigen/antibody relationships
  • Earth and space science
  • Enzymes and macromolecules
  • Forensics
  • Genetics and heredity
  • Practice measuring liquids
  • Protein analysis
  • Recombinant DNA technologies
  • Water quality

Click here for technical specifications and scheduling information for teachers and schools that wish to request the Learning Undefeated mobile lab.