Through a generous grant from the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, Decatur Makers recently concluded the final session of our first ever DNA Barcoding Summer Symposium. Our goal was to increase children’s interest in a career in scientific research, especially among girls and persons from underrepresented minorities. We recognize that there exists a lack of diversity among the US workforce in STEM disciplines. It is our belief that when kids are exposed to real-world scientific inquiry and presented with career options in the sciences, they will develop more confidence in conducting and understanding science and will be more interested in pursuing scientific fields as a career. You can learn more about DNA Barcoding by checking out our previous blog post here.
We had the privilege of hosting students from Decatur Makers, International Rescue Committee, and The Global Village Project for this unique opportunity to perform the same types of lab experiments as professional scientists. Students performed DNA isolation, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and bioinformatic data analysis using the same tools found in university labs in order to identify various organisms down to the species level.
Here’s how it went…
Overall, students were very excited to participate in the activity. We found that students responded well to being put in a situation where they perceived themselves as real scientists. By providing the same tools and performing the same operations as professional scientists, students were able to feel like they were doing meaningful work.
Before and after the DNA barcoding symposium, each participant was assessed for their understanding the follow key topics:
- DNA and its role in our cells,
- Polymerase chain reaction and why it is an important technology,
- Gel Electrophoresis and its application to DNA barcoding, and
- The purpose of DNA barcoding and its applications.
Through self-reported survey results, we found the following improvements in student understanding after completing the symposium:
In conclusion, we would consider this experiment an overwhelming success. We would like to sincerely thank our funder, the Georgia Clinical and Transnational Science Alliance, without whom this opportunity would not have been possible. We look forward to working with them again in the future.