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Fifth Grade Boys Transformed Into Biotechnologists

on March 10, 2016 - 7:37am
Fifth grade boys from Mountain Elementary School how to extract their own DNA. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos
The boys were huddled together, completely focused. As the mysterious substance took shape in their test tubes, they exclaimed, I see it ... it’s a stringy thing ... it’s like gelatin ... and I have more than you do!
Prisca Tiasse, the owner of Biodidact, was teaching the fifth grade boys from Mountain Elementary School how to extract their own DNA. And they were loving it!
“The subject matter is fascinating to them. And they love comparing with each other.” said Gail Lance, an IA who works with the group on a regular basis. “A lot of them didn’t understand what DNA was at the beginning of the class. But now when they hear the term DNA on the news they’ll really know what it is.”
The girls were attending the 2016 Northern New Mexico Expanding Your Horizons Technical Career Workshops in Santa Fe. The boys in Mr. Smith, Mrs. Ziomek and Mrs. Moore’s classes all needed something equally enriching to do. That’s where Tiasse and Biodidact came in. She brought the “field trip” to the school, along with the lesson plan for several hands-on experiments and all the equipment.
For the DNA extraction, each student scraped cells from their mouth, and put them into a test tube with detergent, salt and alcohol where the strands of DNA began to appear. And, like real scientists, some of the students faced setbacks and surprises.
Tiasse handled it by helping them work through the things that may have gone wrong. They may not have collected enough cells or may have shaken it and broken down the DNA. She quickly explained how they could use her centrifuge to concentrate the DNA so that it would be visible.
One of the boys showed her his tube, which was full of pink liquid. She studied it against the light and announced to the whole class that that student may have had a piece of candy in his mouth, which colored the liquid. While she showed the roomful of energetic boys how to use the pipette to move the DNA from the tube into a chain that they could wear around their necks, the teachers and aides noticed how engaged they were.
“She’s really engaging the kids,” Alyssa Van Anne said. “And that can be hard to do.”
After the DNA extraction, they constructed a DNA model, explored bacterial diversity, and worked in a crime lab. They completed the day by recording their observations in a video blog.
Biodidact is a biotechnology research laboratory with a commitment to providing quality, safe, sustainable and authentic STEM education support to the community. Visit here for more information.
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo