Grade 9 students at Quamichan School got to be virus detectives recently when Genome B.C.’s Geneskool Education Program visited the Cowichan school.
The workshop, lead by volunteer scientist presenters from UBC’s Let’s Talk Science program, challenged students to solve a fictional outbreak case “using real world epidemiologic tools that are currently used during COVID-19. Working in collaborative teams, students processed, analyzed and synthesized genomic information in order to identify patient zero.”
The situation enabled the 20 students to use what they learned about DNA and cell biology in Science 9 in a real-world-type problem that actual doctors and scientists, geneticists, and researchers face every day.
It was a particularly interesting endeavor given the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are very grateful that Genome BC offered this real-world learning to our students. Being able to have hands on experiences, that are so connected to what is happening in our world right now, brings learning to such a deep level,” said Robyn Gray, superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District. “These experiences change lives and empower our students to work on the challenges our communities currently face.”
The goal of the program is to introduce students to genomics “in a fun and interesting context” while still learning about a pretty tricky discipline. Genomics is the science that aims to decipher and understand the entire genetic information of an organism encoded in DNA.
The Genome B.C. Geneskool volunteers are often MSc and PhD candidates who share their motivation and passion for science with the students.
“Molecular biology is an integral part of our natural world,” according to Genome B.C. spokesperson Sally Greenwood. “The Genome B.C. Geneskool program offers students a chance to use advanced laboratory technology and techniques to see the tiny world that exists at the molecular level while learning, having fun and garnering a greater appreciation of the world around us.”