Classwork adapts, just like the content being studied in VAMPY’s DNA and Genetics class

If you were to ask what a typical day looks like in the DNA & Genetics class, the most generalized statement would be an alternation of direct coursework and labs. However, every day, the content changes, the labs change, the equipment changes. Just like the life being studied, the life of the classroom adapts, but in this case to the needs and interests of the students. While some labs and lessons are core to the course, every year new things are introduced as students express their interests.

This year, students have experienced a plethora of content that ranges from introductory genetics to college level material. Students were able to experience the multidisciplinary aspect that genetics takes on. To explore this further, students studied the Mendelian genetics of corn using a Chi Square test from statistics, discussed the chemical makeup of DNA and bonds in protein, looked at mutant fruit flies under a microscope, and even researched a specific genetic disease of their choosing and presented their research. 

This Thursday, our students joined with other STEM classes at VAMPY and visited the Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In order to make the study of space relevant to our course, we were given an exclusive tour with one of the lead astrobiologists from NASA, Dr. Richard Hoover. He was able to not only walk us through the space center itself, but he also showed us a presentation he gave on his research on life from outside Earth! Students were given his contact information as well, which is an invaluable connection to the STEM field. 

On previous days, we began the study of blood typing. Both students and teachers were given the opportunity to use a kit that allowed them to discover their own blood type while discussing antigens and antibodies! On another day, students were able to build microscopes that fit onto their phone camera lens. We saw a lot of fascinating images! Students have done a taste lab, practiced gel electrophoresis with candy colors, and studied the pedigrees of queens and blue people of Appalachia. 

This class empowers students to really become geneticists; they are constantly learning, researching, collaborating, and presenting. Students are improving proficiency in lab techniques and safety that will put them a head above the rest when they continue into their science courses and future research! Hopefully, this course ignites a passion in some students to continue studying the area of genetics and provides all with a new perspective on what makes us, us.