Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00
Last month, educators from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, the world’s first science center devoted entirely to genetics education, were at St. Dominic Elementary School. The Learning Center is an operating unit of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The educators worked with the students in grades 4, 5, and 6. They used the new science lab and presented lessons on cells, traits, and heredity. The students used the DNA lab’s state-of-the-art microscopes and other equipment that enabled the students to participate in many experiments.
The students in grade 4 made animal cells out of gelatin and different dried beans. The gelatin represented the cytoplasm and the different beans represented the various organelles.
The students in grade 5 prepared their own slides to observe cells and chromosomes. They first had to drop the cells onto the slide so they would “splatter” and open on the slide. Next, they stained the slide so they could observe the cells and chromosomes under the stereoscopes (dissecting microscopes from the DNA lab). The students then learned how to adjust the scopes and focus them properly. After all the prep work, the students observed their cells and chromosomes.
The fifth-graders were also introduced to the world of mutations. They discussed what mutations are, then observed fruit flies under compound microscopes. The students were able to identify mutations in the fruit flies such as the eye shape and color.
The students in grade 6 participated in the mutation lab and were introduced to compounds and enzymes. They built molecular models of simple compounds such as water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia. Then they completed an experiment, which allowed them to observe chemical reactions that take place within our bodies.
To do this, the sixth-graders placed a calf’s liver in a cup of hydrogen peroxide. The students observed that there was an increase in temperature while the hydrogen peroxide bubbled around the liver. The liver was not harmed because the enzyme catalase adsorbed the harmful toxins. The increased temperature and bubbling action demonstrated that a chemical reaction was taking place. This experiment modeled what enzymes in our bodies do to allow us to digest food.