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Lab kits

practical kits for teaching genomics
So what I wanted to share with you here is rather than PCR, actually a little bit of what we do here for electrophoresis. Because that’s certainly been something that for quite a few years in my teaching it’s been difficult to get students to be able to understand what electrophoresis is. So there’s a company out there that’s called Edvotek. And Edvotek produced various different electrophoresis kits, such as this one. This is a six group kit but you can get singular ones as well. So you can run six gels inside there at once. I haven’t bought the power pack part in, but it would all be attached onto that.
And the really, really good part of these Edvotek kits is you can go and buy in 30 or 40, I think, different pre-made experiments for them to do. So I’ve just held up a couple of examples. That one is called “Whose DNA was Left Behind?” And that one’s a bit of a crime scene investigation. That one works quite well even with year 9s and year 10s I find. And then you’ve got another one there that’s called “In Search of My Father,” which again, you can probably tell from the name that that’s going to be paternity testing. But that one uses fingerprinting. And so that one is a little bit more difficult for students to understand.
So we tend to do that with the higher ability ones. Another example of some practical model-based things that you can bring into the classroom– quite a new and up and coming technology, but the use of virtual reality headsets. So this particular one is from a company called ClassVR, ClassroomVR, who’ve launched recently the first educational theme park that you can actually visit whilst the students are inside the headset. But what’s absolutely fantastic for genetics is you can actually bring up molecular models for them. So being able to visualise the DNA molecule up close.
And particularly with some of your higher ability your, A-level students, when you’re starting to talk about transcriptional factors and how they’ve got very specific places on a DNA molecule and a particular shape that they fit into, being able to actually show them that shape in 3D where they can actually manipulate it is brilliant. These particular ones, we’ve got 32 of them, and they’re not cheap for one. But that leads me quite nicely into something I would be saying a bit later on about how you can get funding for a lot of these nice ideas. But you can link them all together onto your Wi-Fi and they can all be controlled at once by the teacher.
So there’s not that concern that they’re going off and looking at other things to what you want. And you can also manipulate the model that they’re looking at on your teacher’s console so you can turn the molecule for them. So absolutely fantastic, and I think a big direction that teaching might be going on in the future. Perhaps a little bit less high tech, but still absolutely brilliant. I have a double size one of these on my coffee table at home. What self-respecting biology teacher wouldn’t? But here we go. So this is a 12-layer model. It’s well used this one.
It’s just so handy to have on the desk whenever you are bringing in a concept to do with genetics, the genome, just reminding students of what that looks like. And making them realise how many times bigger than a real DNA model that is. And I think– I believe if it were this size, it would be stretching well beyond the sun and back a number of times. That always gets a wow factor. The really nice thing with the Molymod kits that are out there is they make complementary ones that go with that Molymod kit. So this particular one that I’m holding up here is part of the mRNA protein synthesis Molymod kit.
I’m literally holding up a tRNA molecule there that’s got amino acid on the top. And what you can do with the students is you can give them a pre-made bit of DNA. And then you can ask them to unzip it. You can ask them to make some mRNA. And then you can get them to translate that into a protein using the amino acid at the top. And I find that so so, so helpful with students that need to visualise things.
We’ve probably heard of dual coding and this is a really good way of getting something really difficult and traditionally taught through an audio format– teachers talking about it– getting them to then actually visually make something as well as listen really has improvements for their recall in the future. Origami Organelles have taken that one step further. And they’ve tried to make paper models of all of the complex processes in genomics. So PCR, electrophoresis, genome models, they’re all available on there. and 3 or 4 pounds to download the template. I think something like 180 pounds to download the complete A-level suite. So there’s some really, really good cheap things out there.
A lot of the kit that we’ve got in school hasn’t come out of our department budget. Because frankly, if I asked for that, it would be a huge chunk out of our department budget for some of these kits. So we have a parent-teacher association. We’re very fortunate that we can bid for equipment through that. But that could be something that your school has that you could look into. We’re also a part of the Jack Petchey fund. So we’re fortunate that some students have chosen to donate their Jack Petchey award to us. But they do also have a grant scheme, Jack Petchey, that you as a teacher can apply for a project.
And I think it’s something between 800 and 1,000 pounds that they can award you if they feel that your project is going to have enough impact on enough students. And then just something through STEM Learning UK, we do have something known as the infused grants. And again, it’s an application process and you’d have to make sure it was very clear why you were applying for this and how this is going to have impact on students. But again, that’s quite a significant amount of money that can be given to purchase this sort of thing.

It can be daunting to design and deliver a whole genomics practical to use with students, but luckily there are a lot of pre-made kits and resources out there that have been specifically designed for educational use.

In this video Matt King introduced some of the kits he’s used in his classroom to support teaching of core genomics concepts such as PCR and electrophoresis. He also discusses how he’s been able to access different funding routes to support getting these kits. Next week, we’ll be highlighting another teacher who has applied and received funding to support an extra-curricular sequencing project.

What lab kits have you come across? Have you used any in your classroom?

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Genomics for Educators

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