- 1 Human Practices- Education and Public Engagement
- 1.1 IRIS Website
- 1.2 March for Science
- 1.3 Bioblast
- 1.4 Presentations
- 1.5 Website
- 1.6 Posters in School Lab
- 1.7 Blog and Social Media
Human Practices- Education and Public Engagement
IRIS is a website containing resources which are available to over 450 schools from across the world which have signed up for it. Its main aims are to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM subjects and to enrich the work of teachers. The website contains resources covering a wide variety of scientific topics and is a truly unique tool for the schools that can access it.
Being the first UK state school to go to the Giant Jamboree in Boston, our team felt our work was noteworthy enough to have an involvement on IRIS. When we saw that we had been given a small segment with our frog site link included, we were extremely excited. We now have access to thousands more students and teachers who will hopefully be inspired by our work in synthetic biology and the IGEM competition. Because of this we have raised awareness for this fascinating area of science. You can visit the IRIS website <a href="http://www.researchinschools.org">here</a>. which shows one of the greatest successes of our human practices.
March for Science
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The March for Science took place on April 22nd 2017, where thousands of scientists, journalists and enthusiasts came together in over 500 cities worldwide to stand up for evidence based research, scientific rigour, sound methodology and expertise. Amongst the thousands were five members of the Judd iGEM team carrying a sign to demonstrate their support. This caught the eye of Peter Capaldi – the twelfth incarnation of Doctor Who! After getting his signature and photos, the team continued with the march where they saw many incredible banners and took in the atmosphere where these thousands of people were all marching for one cause. At the end of the march, a variety of scientists and journalists gave 5 minute speeches on why the movement was so important and how this needs to be promoted within society and politics. This march caused the whole team, not only those who attended, to reflect on the importance of the march and the inspiration that comes from seeing thousands gather to support the movement. iGEM promotes similar core values and so this march specifically made us more motivated to make sure we promote synthetic biology in our own way.
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To introduce the lower school to synthetic biology and the ethics involved in this exciting field of science we created a weekly club within our school. We chose to make the club specifically for year 7s because by teaching them the basic principles of genetic engineering they can research further throughout their time in high school and form their own opinions about genetic engineering and potentially become the future iGEM team. The club provided the iGEM team with the opportunity to engage with the younger members of the school community and explore their opinions about the complex ideas we were introducing them to.
Each weekly 1-hour session in the BioBlast club built upon their knowledge about DNA and genetic engineering starting from the basics and gradually working up. We started by looking at cells and using microscopes to identify the nucleus, then in following sessions, we studied DNA and its structure. All our sessions had a practical element to keep students engaged since they were 11-12 years old. For example, when we were looking at the structure of DNA we used sweets to create 3D models - this was very successful as by the end of the session they could identify elements of the DNA structure. In following sessions, we transitioned onto Darwin and Mendel and the effect of genes on phenotypes (demonstrated by a practical involving Gelli-baff which mimicked natural selection) and then moved onto genetic engineering. It was in these sessions that big ethical debates were raised naturally by the students and lead onto organic discussions such as “Should we genetically engineer a ‘perfect’ human?” and “Is it ethical to genetically modify farm animals for agriculture?”.
It was very encouraging to see these debates developing without prompting from us and to see these issues discussed with a solid scientific background. In the final session, we played a board game created by the Exeter IGEM team in 2016 which taught the students about plasmid construction and illuminated the vast potential of genetic engineering- this was very successful as at this point the students had a solid scientific foundation and could follow along very well to a game created for slightly older students. It was important to us that the club was interactive and can be delivered by other schools in the future using the resources we created so for every session we created a Kahoot quiz which can be found by searching Kahoot for the username ‘BioBlast_Club’ and all the PowerPoints we used can be found on our <a href="https://frog.judd.kent.sch.uk/app/os#!igem/home">website</a> as well as a more detailed description of what we did and how others can run this club.
Young Scientist Journal
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This event held at Queens college Cambridge, allowed the team to present our project in a number of different ways. As well as doing a talk and presentation, we also used our poster. Their feedback on the poster was extremely helpful in telling us what we need to change before the Jamboree. Overall, the whole experience was extremely beneficial in preparing us for the Giant Jamboree which was only a month away. We had the opportunity to present our work in a similar way to what we expect to do in Boston; a dress rehearsal if you like. We were lucky enough to meet some leading academics and discuss our project as well as win the prize for Best Scientific communication.
Furthermore, all of the students at the young scientist journal were at similar stage in their education to us and were interested in STEM so we hope that the young students enjoyed our talk and felt inspired by the IGEM competition and would consider joining a university team. As a team we are very keen to lead the way for other British schools to follow in the future. Being one of the first British state schools to enter the competition, we are particularly keen that other schools such as us follow in our footsteps.
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The presentation that was delivered to the Biology society in school and was aimed at the sixth form who are already studying Biology A level and was focused on the lab work, protocols, our genetic construct and the scientific research involved in our project. Aside from possibly inspiring the year 12s to become the next Judd iGEM team, it introduced those who already study sciences to synthetic biology and potentially encourage the year 12s to consider a career in this field as this year they will need to consider university. We decided to present to the year 12’s who expressed an interest in biology because we wanted them to be aware of the great potential of synthetic biology that is not covered in the A-level curriculum.
Tonbridge Science Conference
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On the 11th of October, a few members of our team carried out a 20 minute presentation of our work as part of the Tonbridge science conference. The team also had the opportunity to showcase our poster, in a similar fashion as would end up doing at the Giant Jamboree. This conference included a number of other secondary schools from the surrounding area who also gave presentations and a number of talks which were given by experts in varying fields of science.
Our team found the experience extremely enjoyable and helpful. The conference allowed us to educate pupils from similar schools and of similar ages about synthetic biology and the IGEM competition. As the first UK state school to go to the Giant Jamboree in Boston, we hope that other state schools which were in attendance were inspired to follow in our footsteps.
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The presentation given in the Judd medical society was focused on the issue of iron deficiency and excess iron in the body. The talk covered the prevalence of iron deficiency in the developing world and how our project is specifically designed for this demographic. The medical society presentation was a good opportunity to focus on the potential of our project in the real world before our interview with the haematologist. The medical society is attended by students from all years but primarily by sixth form who have an interest in studying medical sciences therefore the talk also covered why healthy iron is so fundamental to life and addressed common misconceptions surrounding anaemia and iron deficiency as well as discussing some of the latest research which illuminates just how harmful excess iron can be in body. We raised awareness about iGEM and synthetic biology among students who have expressed an interest in medicine and hopefully shown them the global positive impact can have in the medical field.
Whole School Assembly
The assemblies were used as a tool to educate the school about synthetic biology, a subject only touched upon in A level biology. As a team, we believe that synthetic biology needs to be talked about more in high schools as it is rapidly becoming the most influential area of science.
In our presentations, we explained what synthetic biology entails. We talked about the ever growing need for innovation to help resolve global issues. Issues such as the global food shortage and energy crisis. We also talked about the ethics of synthetic biology and why the public has been so opposed to its use in the past. Examples such as the burning of GM crops in the early 1990s and 2000s shows how synthetic biology, if badly managed, can result in a public and media backlash. However, we explained how the current applications of synthetic biology, which are numerous, are only the tip of the iceberg. This led onto an explanation of our project and the IGEM competition which hopefully encouraged younger students to start their own teams in the senior part of the school.
Modelling Presentation: Chemistry Society
In another talk given in Chemistry society, the modelling team went through the derivation of our mathematical model to the upper school. This explained the benefits of using a mathematical model in chemical processes and how we it in our project and was an opportunity to educate our peers about a specific aspect of our iGEM work.
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While our project was still in its infancy, we began constructing a website on our school system (which is called frog). It gives information covering what the IGEM competition entails as well as all aspects of our project. Each part of the project, for example human practices, has its own page which we began filling with content as a log of the team’s progress. The website had a number of functions. Firstly, from a human practices point of view, the website was great for educating the rest of our school and the public about synthetic biology , IGEM and our project. It also helped us record all of our progress and also provided us with a form a practice for the creation of our own wiki page. Click on this link to our frog site. https://frog.judd.kent.sch.uk/igem
Posters in School Lab
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