Winona State University’s Chemistry Club (Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society) is making an impact in more than just their regular college classrooms. The club recently brought one of their own laboratory modules into a middle school science classroom for Bluffview Montessori School’s 7th and 8th graders to participate in.
The goals of the outreach activities include getting children interested in doing real life science experiments with professional scientific equipment and reagents. The club also hopes to help support understanding of the scientific method in students of all ages, to support science teachers on limited budgets, and to help student teachers gain more classroom experience.
“We want to serve as a resource for teachers in the community. We’re all on the same team trying to help students to succeed,” said Jon Mauser, faculty advisor of the Chemistry Club.
The laboratory module they brought to the middle school classroom was coordinated in advance with the teacher and prepared based off what the classroom teacher had taught up to that point. The students first discussed genes with the club and how your genes make you who you are. In particular, they discussed the genetic basis of taste and how genes influence the different sensations, including sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
Approximately 30 percent of the population is not sensitive to the bitter compound of Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which is similar chemically to compounds found in mustard family greens, like broccoli. If you can taste PTC, you are less likely to eat these vegetables.
Students tasted strips that contained PTC and determined whether they were able to taste PTC or not. They then predicted their “genotype” – their actual genetic makeup based on their ability to taste PTC. The students collected their own DNA from their cheek cells and amplified their own genes by over a billion copies using a modern scientific technique known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). They were then able to correlate their sense of taste with their actual DNA genotype and connect their sensation of the world to the genes they carry.
“The classroom teacher believed that the activity really boosted their confidence and interest and tied in perfectly with where they were at,” said Mauser.
The Chemistry Club is already receiving more interest from other local schools.
The club has several standards aligned labs that touch on areas of forensic and biological science that are available to any interested school to take advantage of. The club hopes also to develop labs for even younger kids to participle in that align with what they have learned in the classroom.
For more information, email Jonathon Mauser at firstname.lastname@example.org.