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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Hello, I’m Karen Hornby. And I’m welcoming Bev Goodger and Alex Jenkin to this Q&A to answer a few questions that have come out of the teaching practical biology course about inspiring students with plants in science. But first, do you want to say a few words, Bev and Alex, about the course in general?

Skip to 0 minutes and 26 seconds ALEX JENKIN: Well, I suppose, first, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s done the course. It’s been the first time we’ve done something like this. And it’s been really enjoyable for us, interacting with people. We’ve learned a lot from people on the course, and seeing how they’ve reacted to the things that we’ve suggested. And it’s felt like a very positive experience. So I hope everyone’s enjoyed it. But it certainly feels like it’s been a good experience on our end.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds And there are some things that we’re going to giving as some food for thought to try out as well, some sort of hints and tips for practicals, that we might– we need to investigate a little bit further before we can start putting them into the resources we put on our website. But yeah, it’s been great.

Skip to 1 minute and 15 seconds KAREN HORNBY: That’s good that it’s been a sort of two-way process as well, so fitting into future development work.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds ALEX JENKIN: Yeah, absolutely.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Great. And Bev–

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds BEV GOODGER: Well, I’ve really enjoyed being part of it. I’ve never been part of anything like this before. I really enjoyed the way all the teachers, and technicians, and everybody taking part in the course were inspired by each other’s ideas, as well as the ideas that were present on the MOOC. I just thought it was brilliant, the way everybody got excited by each other’s ideas. And I feel it’s been a very positive experience. And I hope all the participants feel it has as well.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Yeah, there were some really, really good ideas shared I thought. And we’ll go to the first question from Howard, which is, really he’s asking where do classroom teachers turn to for credible explanations to difficult questions and concepts?

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds ALEX JENKIN: Come to SAPS. So we do offer Ask the Expert Service generally for teachers and technicians, rather than the students. Although students do get in touch with us from time to time. Their contact details are available on our website, a phone number and an email address. We try to get it back to people within a week, if that’s possible. So lots of questions about practical protocols, sourcing equipment, but also about plant science, queries around subject knowledge, I suppose. We do also have an archive of previous questions on our website. So if you go onto the SAPS website, in the area under associates, you can go through and you can browse previous questions that other people have asked.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 seconds So you can have a look there as well. I think just to add, one other thing I suggest– I mean, do obviously, always come to us. We’ve got a panel that we can ask further questions to as well. But if you’re on Twitter, there are lots of friendly researchers out there who may well be able to offer some insight into your question as well.

Skip to 3 minutes and 53 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Ruth has asked whether it might be more successful to compare and contrast plant and animal material, and highlights to sort of compare and contrast the processes that are going on. Bev, have you got anything to say about that?

Skip to 4 minutes and 14 seconds BEV GOODGER: Well, I think in a way the MOOC course was born out of a need for us to remind people that they can teach many of the concepts that they’re teaching in animal biology through using plant material. So what I hope the MOOC has done is to provide examples of plant based investigations that can be used in the classroom. So that when people or planning schemes work, and thinking about having to teach a topic, they will actually draw on perhaps their first thoughts, which might be animal based, but we’ve now provided a course with examples of how they can actually use plants so easily, and so cheaply, and ethically in the classroom as an alternative.

Skip to 5 minutes and 6 seconds And also, as a unifying concept. These are fundamental biological principles. So I hope that in a way our course didn’t need to show the animal parallels, because what we’re trying to do is to say, yes, but look at these, look how you can use plants to illustrate that same point. And of course, I know the first session was osmosis and we used plants say, wow, we’re trying to say something that you might not think is exciting is. But certainly, in the respiration and the stem cells, I think our overriding aim there was to try to make people realise plants are very useful organisms that you can use to get some practical experience in unifying biological concepts.

Skip to 5 minutes and 48 seconds So I hope we’ve done that. I hope you’ve been inspired. Ruth, I hope you’re able to take what you’ve learned from the course and interleave it with your animal examples that you’ve got.

Skip to 6 minutes and 0 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Thank you. And a few questions now about the cauliflower planning experiment. There seem to be quite a number of technical questions. So from Obi, he has trouble getting access to the nutrients for the medium. And a few people have commented as well, that they’ve had issues with contamination for example, or the plants just not growing. Alex, have you got any help for them?

Skip to 6 minutes and 34 seconds ALEX JENKIN: So, the origin of this protocol as I think it explains in the protocol itself, is that this is a technique that Kew uses when collecting plant samples in the wild to bring back to propagate. So it has been developed– or developed from that process of scientific rigour. It’s as risk free in terms of contamination as possible, but contamination does happen. And I would reassure people that that’s a normal thing to happen. And it does provide opportunities to think about, well, why might that have happened. What could be the conditions.

Skip to 7 minutes and 21 seconds It’s tricky in a school environment to control the entire environment, if you’ve got vents that are blowing air around the room, if you’ve got heating on, heaters that are blowing out air. Then it’s best to turn them off if you possibly can. There’s windows open that should be closed. But you’ve also got 30 students moving about in a room. And as much as you encourage them to move slowly and carefully and not lean over their little pots of media, it still does happen. We sort of would say that actually if you’re getting a quarter of them contaminated, that would still be a–

Skip to 8 minutes and 8 seconds it’s not something to worry about, in terms of the protocol. That would be– if all of them are getting contaminated, you might want to go back and look at the technique, both for preparing the little pots of media, and also for what the students are doing.

Skip to 8 minutes and 28 seconds Because it’s possible they could get contaminated before the students are even looking at them. So it’s worth going back and looking at that. And again, as I’ve said, you can use that as an opportunity to discuss what’s going on– what is the– where might contamination be coming from. In terms of the medium, again this is the recipe that we give. It’s the one Kew uses.

Skip to 8 minutes and 54 seconds People have used other things. I’ve been in conversation with someone who has used the SAPS solution, which recipe for which is on our website, which can be complicated to prepare. And adding that too the agar and Milton tablet mixture to create a medium. But without that Kinetin without the hormone present, and without all of the nutrients necessary that are in the mix that we suggest, you may find that you aren’t able to get a longer term growth of the explants. It’s something that we think we might be able to have a look into, might talk to Kew about whether there are any alternatives. But in general, obviously, if it’s possible to use what we recommended.

Skip to 10 minutes and 1 second But you can try other things. It’s just you might not be able to get any long term growth. And you might find it’s a bit like keeping a cut flower and it stays alive, but doesn’t develop any new green leafy parts of the plant, which is the real wow bit of that practical, is when it starts growing– when they start growing little leaves, and looking like little plants rather than little chunks of cauliflower. So I hope that’s useful. Again, people are more than welcome to get in touch with us via the contact page on our website. And we can work through any specific issues that people might be having.

Skip to 10 minutes and 35 seconds KAREN HORNBY: We’ve got some queries about the garlic bulbs as well for root tip squash. Is it better to use old garlic, new garlic, put it in the fridge first?

Skip to 10 minutes and 46 seconds All kinds of ideas have been thrown into the mix. But what do you recommend?

Skip to 10 minutes and 53 seconds ALEX JENKIN: I mean, my experience is anecdotal.

Skip to 11 minutes and 0 seconds We’ve been doing– we do this sort of every so often. I wasn’t involved in the development of this practical. Generally, most garlic bulbs should grow. I do know a technician who absolutely swears by using older bulbs that have been hanging around for a while, just in the cupboard. She finds that works better. The suggestion of putting them in the fridge relates to winterisation or vernalisation of bulbs. So some bulbs will only germinate or only start growing after a period of cold. But I don’t know if that’s true of garlic. So again, I think it’s another one for us to investigate.

Skip to 11 minutes and 50 seconds Or if anyone’s done any of their own investigations and thinks that there’s something that makes them grow particularly, then do get in touch. Another thing we do is sometimes actually putting them in slightly warm water to grow, can encourage them to grow a bit faster. So putting them in a water bath at 20 degrees or something can help them along.

Skip to 12 minutes and 18 seconds KAREN HORNBY: OK, thank you. Bev, anything to add?

Skip to 12 minutes and 22 seconds BEV GOODGER: Well, not so much for rooting the garlic. It’s not something that we’ve ever had a problem with. They always root well. The thing that we used to have a problem with was the first practical of the day on a cold winter’s morning, it was quite common to find no dividing cells in the root tips squashes we prepared. Whereas later in the day, there’d be plenty. Now I have heard that there is a diurnal rhythm to cell division. But we also wondered whether it was just perhaps the fact that the roots had been sitting in very cold water, because there’d be no heating on in the prep room over night. Whereas later in the day, they were warmer.

Skip to 13 minutes and 1 second So we always used to just make sure that the water that the rooted cloves were sitting in was room temperature or thereabouts for about half an hour or an hour before the practical actually started. And that, in my experience, produced dividing cells, mitotic cells on each of the slides the students made. So just a thought, but anecdotal.

Skip to 13 minutes and 26 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Yeah, a nice bit of advice there, Bev. And the last one, several people have asked this. Why do we use the glass beads when we’re germinating seeds in the flask?

Skip to 13 minutes and 39 seconds BEV GOODGER: Shall, I start with this one, Alex?

Skip to 13 minutes and 41 seconds ALEX JENKIN: Yeah, absolutely.

Skip to 13 minutes and 43 seconds BEV GOODGER: Well, you can do the peas in the thermal flask experiment with two flasks. You can do it with germinating peas and with cold boiled germinating dead peas You can do with that way. But the flask with the glass beads is there as a control. Because if your hypothesis is that the heat being produced is the result of respiration. And you get heat in your glass bead flask, then clearly glass beads don’t respire, so therefore, your hypothesis is not being supported. It’s there as a control. In terms of using less glass beads to keep the volume constant, that was obviously something that we did for the respiroremters, because you’re dealing in changes in gas volume.

Skip to 14 minutes and 27 seconds And inside the thermos flasks, obviously changes in gas volume aren’t as critical, because you’re looking at changes in temperature. But it’s just another way of trying to control the variables. If you’ve got the same volume of peas in each flask, then you’ve got the same volume of peas potentially respiring and producing heat to fill the volume of the flask evenly, or raising the temperature of the flask. So from my point of view, they’re there as a control.

Skip to 14 minutes and 57 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Well, thank you to both of you. It’s been a real pleasure reading all of the discussions during the MOOC. Also, following up on some of the great resources that people have shared on there as well. So I think that was a particular favourite part of mine. And so thank you to both of you.

Skip to 15 minutes and 17 seconds ALEX JENKIN: Thanks for your support as well, Karen. And Matt as well. Can I just add something on the end, as sort of a what next for those of you who’ve finished the course. We do send out a newsletter every half term. So please sign up for the SAPS newsletter on the SAPS website.

Skip to 15 minutes and 41 seconds And do tell people about the course and tell people about SAPS as well. We’re here to support teachers and technicians. And the more we can do that, then that’s fantastic. And again, thanks for during the course, I suppose.

Skip to 15 minutes and 58 seconds KAREN HORNBY: Thanks Alex.

Skip to 15 minutes and 59 seconds BEV GOODGER: And the same for me. And thank you to everybody who shared their enthusiasm. Keep inspiring, that’s what I would say. So thank you to all of the participants. And thank you and Matt, for all your patience and help support throughout.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Biology: Inspiring Students with Plant Science

National STEM Learning Centre