Our team recognized the need to extend our project beyond the lab and involve the members of our community. Through a number of diverse activities ranging from presentations at city hall, to a fun filled information night for parents and teachers, we spread information about synthetic biology, and the issues found in ink production. Overall, the engagement activities helped inform the public of iGEM and our project.
Members of our team decided to present our synthetic ink project to city council members to inform them of all the benefits that iGEM has to offer. During the presentation, members of city council expressed their interest in mostly the marketability of our project, and where it would lead us in the future. They gave us great recommendations for how to move forward with the project and expressed interest in helping us out. For instance, contact information for other large ink companies were shared with the team in order for us to gain more knowledge on the ink industry. Councillors also expressed confidence in our project by showing their support.
City Hall Public Forum
Following the presentation at city hall, a public forum was also conducted where members of city hall, and citizens could ask questions about our project. It also allowed us to inform them about iGEM and synthetic biology. Through this, we gained the attention of the local media. Global News Lethbridge interviewed a member of our team. This was a great opportunity to spread the word on our project and iGEM. The visit to city hall was quite rewarding, and very beneficial to the development of our project, as we learned citizens’ opinions on our project.
Shine on Festival
As part of the University of Lethbridge's "Shine on Festival" Homecoming Event, our team secured a tent to spread more information about our project and iGEM to the community. Members spoke with a variety of people including professors, university students, and children. We were even able to persuade a few high school students to join the team next year! As well, through advertising our Gofundme page, the event posed a way for our team to gain funds for our project. Promoting the synthetic biology community and the involvement of high school students in scientific learning was a worthwhile experience.
One of the components to our public engagement aspect for our human practices was a parent and teacher night. This night was certainly a success. During the event, we had our parents and teachers come to the University of Lethbridge for a presentation, and a few labs. The event gave our team the perfect opportunity to showcase our lab space, as well as introduce our project to the community. We used the presentation to briefly provide an explanation of iGEM, as well as our project. Following the presentations, the participants had the chance to perform a few experiments that require similar protocol and science to our own experiments. For example, they got to extract the DNA from strawberries, as well as run an agarose gel. This allowed the teachers and parents to gain an insight into the experiments completed by our team throughout the season, such as our minipreps. After the event, we collected some brief feedback from the participants. There was an overall positive response to the presentation and experiments; they were found educational and engaging. However, it was suggested that the delivery of the presentation should be refined and that our project, SynthetINK, be explained further in depth. By the end of the evening, a strong interest was shown regarding synthetic biology and a willingness to promote iGEM to extended family, friends and students. Many participants seemed eager to participate in similar events in the future. The teachers and parents expressed great enthusiasm seeing their students or children participating in the program and applying science outside of school. Overall, this event helped us to engage with the public, while also allowing the opportunity to spread more awareness for synthetic biology. It enabled us to show the teachers at our schools and our parents a glimpse into what happens during a season of iGEM, as well as the number of benefits gained by students from the program and the competition.
Curriculum Proposal and Research
Team members were fortunate to have interviewed Sheanne Cox, a middle school teacher at G.S Lakie. During our interview, we discussed the possible integration of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) into the Alberta middle school curriculum, Sheanne stressed to us the importance of early integration into the education system in order to help students develop a strong interest in STEAM initiatives. Sheanne also explained to us that focusing on middle school integration gives teachers the freedom to create an option class designed to support the current curriculum. While STEM integration is already being applied at the middle school level, our team has decided to focus on integration of STEAM based learning. STEAM helps to create a more well-rounded student by further stressing the importance of art based learning. The field of science and technology is constantly evolving, and STEAM initiatives allow for a more creative problem solving ability in such an environment. Our interview and research inspired us to draft a basic curriculum proposal to start the conversation of STEAM integration and to provide a foundation in future curriculum development in Alberta.
Please click here to view, if the pdf is not working.
Throughout the season, the local media has expressed interest in our project. For instance, after participating in the BioTreks Scientific Journal, we gained the attention from the local newspaper, the Lethbridge Herald, and we were also featured on the University of Lethbridge website. Our presentation at city hall also gained the attention of the Global News. As well, CTV News interviewed one of our members and spread information about iGEM to the general public.