Learning Undefeated is a mobile education program serving Southeast Texas schools devastated by Hurricane Harvey. 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 were destroyed during the August 2017 hurricane.

Learning Undefeated focuses on communities with the greatest trauma, supporting 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.

Phase 1: Disaster Response for Impacted Communities

Moved by the hurricane damage in Houston and along the gulf bend region of Texas, MdBio Foundation’s staff raised the funding to send the mobile laboratory to southeast Texas in November 2017. In just two weeks, MdBio’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. see news coverage of Learning Undefeated >

In total, more than 1,000 students participated in hands-on STEM learning during Phase One of the Learning Undefeated Program. Following the mobile lab visit, the Port Aransas school district appropriated funding for the MdBioLab to return to Port A for the remainder of 2017, where it will serve as the school’s lab space while the storm damage is being repaired. Phase Two of Learning Undefeated is expected to conclude in early January 2018.

During Phase One, the lab served three impacted schools:

  • Port Aransas High School | Port Aransas, TX
  • Baylor College of Medicine Academy | Houston, TX
  • Secondary Disciplinary Alternative Education Program | Houston, TX

MdBio Foundation partners AstraZeneca and its global biologics research and development arm, MedImmune; CNSI; Northrop Grumman; and VWR International have pledged $40,000 to support Learning Undefeated. With additional contributions, the foundation hopes to expand the program to other high schools along the Gulf Coast.

Phase 2: Loaner Lab for Devastated School

Following an incredibly successful and meaningful first phase of the recovery project, MdBioLab returned to Port Aransas High School, where it served as the school’s only working laboratory space for a period of six weeks until the high school could reopen. MdBio provided training for the teachers on how 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. MdBio also provided staffing support along with laboratory supplies and reagents.

During this period, hundreds of Port Aransas high school students participated in biology, chemistry, and environmental science classes onboard MdBioLab multiple times per day. In January 2018, Port Aransas celebrated the reopening of their high school and MdBioLab returned to Maryland.

Phase 3: Hands-on STEM Education for Hurricane-Impacted Communities

To date, Learning Undefeated has served more than 1,500 students in Hurricane Harvey-impacted communities across south Texas including the communities of Refugio, Wharton, Port Aransas, and Houston. Thanks to a series of grants from the Rebuild Texas fund, programming will continue through December 2018.

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.

Mobile Education for Gulf Coast 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. MdBio’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 MdBio’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.

Community Outreach for Families and Students

During the weekends, the laboratory may be made available for community events, and hosting activities for students so that parents can meet with relief services and other public agencies.The program uses the near-peer mentorship model, keeping students engaged and providing them with inspiring role models from the local community who are invested in their success during a time when many other things are uncertain. Program instructors will be trained to recognize the warning signs of childhood trauma, certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid, and will have access to resources to assist students and families whose students are suffering from traumatic stress following the disaster.

As of the start of the 2017/18 school year, more than ten percent of southeast Texas schools are closed indefinitely with some entire school districts along the gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana shuttered completely. It is estimated that more than 200,000 students will experience long-term educational and psychological impacts from Hurricane Harvey, with low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately affected.

Make it Happen

We invite you to make an impact during this crucial time in the recovery efforts. MdBio Foundation is currently raising funds to keep the Learning Undefeated mobile laboratory in southeast Texas. For more information, contact Brian Gaines, CEO, at bgaines@mdbiofoundation.org or call 240.552.9311.

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.