According to Alia Qatarneh, Research Assistant for the Life Sciences Outreach Program at Harvard University, experimental learning in high school science classrooms has been continuously advancing, with more students engaging in complex procedures. Not only do East Boston High School (EBHS) AP (advanced placement) Biology and Biotechnology students learn about DNA, but they have the opportunity to isolate their own genetic information through their participation in the Amgen Biotech Experience Program (ABE), hosted by Harvard University.
“My students have been exposed to techniques that are currently being used in biotechnology fields,” said Amanda Dillingham Greene, EBHS AP Biology Teacher. “Students have gained confidence in their ability to be successful in science while in high school, college, and possibly becoming future scientists.”
This experience allows students to be inquisitive, and learn about the fundamentals of science through a fun series of laboratory exercises that include learning about molecular biology techniques, insulin regulation, protein structure, and plasmids.
“Through her use of the ABE program, Ms. Dillingham was able to show a different side of science her students have never seen before,” said Qatarneh. “Their interest in science increased, and some expressed interest in prepping for a scientific career.”
Before Thanksgiving vacation, the young “master pipetters” isolated and analyzed DNA from the extracted saliva of their cheek cells. Students snapped on a pair of blue gloves, and wiped the inside of their mouths with a foam-tipped swab, laughing as they indecipherably attempted to talk with one another.
“This experiment is all about you. You are in charge of your DNA,” said Qatarneh, as she energetically sprang to each student, answering questions. “These students were eager and up for the challenge and had a chance to unleash their inner scientist.”
The content of Qatarneh’s lab instructions (which includes science poetry, 4 ft. tall 3D DNA models, and science rap songs written and sung by students) specifically align with Dillingham’s 10th-12th grade biology classes, and broadens students’ concepts of science.
“I was absolutely thrilled to learn that the program existed,” said Dillingham, who attended ABE developmental workshops to learn how to best implement the lab experiments in her classrooms. “The program is extraordinary in that it has all of the needed components to be successful. It was exciting to have Alia co-teach the lessons. It added a personal touch so that the students could meet and work with an expert.”
Visit www.AmgenBiotechExperience.com to learn how your school can implement the science educational program.