Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DNA and DIY at Saint David's STE(A)M

Our technology faculty have been busy at work this summer immersing themselves in exciting projects that they will bring back to our STE(A)M classes.

During a week-long course on DNA bar-coding, conducted by a partnership between Rockefeller University and the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center, they practiced extracting DNA from a variety of plant and animal samples, selecting a single gene, amplifying that DNA using PCR protocol, and performing gel electrophoresis to verify the success of the PCR amplification. Each DNA sample was sequenced in a New Jersey facility, and then provided to workshop participants as a digital file.

Our teachers then worked with online databases of genetic information to compare their samples' gene sequences to those of hundreds of thousands of other species. They were able to identify the species of their sample organisms, and create  genetic "family trees" that show which species are most genetically similar to the organisms whose DNA they sequenced. During this school year, Saint David's is partnering with the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center to bring a new DNA unit to our science classes.

Embracing the DIY approach to learning, our teachers also experimented with Arduino microprocessors, breadboards, temperature sensors and LED lights (see photos). These inexpensive electronics/processing components, combined with programming (using the C language) open up wonderful possibilities for open-ended design and engineering projects that explore electronics, processing, programming, and physical computing.

These kinds of projects will be incorporated into the Seventh Grade technology curriculum, and the First and Second Grade STE(A)M program, using developmentally appropriate materials. 

Research indicates that when boys are empowered to create and build something of interest to them, they understand and learn more deeply. We look forward to implementing more of these types of "do it yourself"  learning-by-making opportunities into our curriculum.

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