Last week I bundled up eight of my nine Year 13's and took them off to the Liggins Institute up at Grafton Campus in Auckland. They run a fantastic programme that allows students' the opportunity to learn about a number of topics and gain some hands-on practical science lab experience.
The topic that we were learning about was the importance of a Healthy Start to Life, and how the environment of a foetus can affect what it looks like, it's birthweight and it's health throughout life.
One thing that I particularly remember is being stumped about why 10 little cloned calves who were all genetically identical actually looked different from one another.. (?!?) I was sitting at the back of the room thinking.. "maybe birth order has affected how many nutrients they have access too.. maybe they have been kept in different paddocks with different food sources.." I didn't even think about the intrauterine environment, from having different surrogate mothers!
It turns out that the environment we all experience inside of our mothers' uterus may have a big influence on the rest of our life, especially during middle-age!
After morning tea the students got to have a go using a micropipette and setting up a DNA sample for PCR. They mixed and mingled into groups with other students from Edgewater College and Onewhero Area School and worked really well together.
Chandar Dewan demonstrating how to use a micropipette
Sela and Kellie with girls from the other two schools
John concentrating on delivering the right amount of polymerase to the PCR tube
Siale and Rapture looking like they're enjoying the day :)
After students had set up their tubes to be taken away and have the sample copied billions and billions of times, the next thing to do was run gel electrophoresis on different samples of DNA, to work out how long the chain of base pairs were in each sample. If a sample has more base pairs then it is longer and bigger, and will push more slowly through the gel. If the sample has less then it will move more quickly and therefore get further through the gel! Then students could use a pre-set ladder sample to work out how long each one was, using a computer programme.
Norman all ready to run gel electrophoresis
At the end of the day everybody split into two groups to talk to two scientists. One was still a student working on his masters about nutrition, and students enjoyed asking him what sort of protein is found in Up and Go (soy) and what protein is better to take when working out (whey right before, and casein the night before).
Mokani and John ready to ask a neuroscientist some questions
The other scientist was a neuroscientist working on Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease, and he brought a real brain with him for students to have a look at, touch and feel! It was covered in a resin to keep it from degrading, so the brain was quite hard and a little bit plastic-y feeling, but so interesting!
Sela, Kellie and Siale touching the brain of a 60-year old!
Siale and Kellie touching a REAL BRAIN!!!
Year 13 Biology made me so proud on the field trip. They displayed respect towards Chandar, the students from other school and each other, and everyone had integrity and responsibility while they participated with their groups during the activities of the day.