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Biology class receives portable lab for DNA testing

posted Apr 13, 2017, 4:34 AM by Michael Richards
This spring, two AP biology classes of teacher Lee McGlashan at Wells High School had the opportunity to work with sophisticated portable DNA testing equipment on loan to them for two weeks from the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.  This unique collaboration was a result of one WOCSD administrator’s participation in the Education Leaders Experience (ELE), a program connecting educators to those working in various sectors of the Maine economy so as to learn the critical role that education plays in the economy.

In late March and early April, 24 students learned to work with a protocol to study genes from human DNA; a double strand helix “macromolecule” made up of possibly 25,000 genes. 

“I brought what I learned from one of the sessions to Lee,” commented Stacey Schatzabel, Director of Instruction in the Wells-Ogunquit CSD who completed the ELE program last year. “He immediately was excited and applied to take the genome course at Jackson Lab.”   

The week-long “Teaching the Genome Generation” course was taken by McGlashan in the summer of 2016.  This trained him to work with the DNA analysis lab so as to incorporate it into his class’s curriculum. 

Working with limited time, McGlashan and students selected to isolate and examine their own “ACE” gene, a gene which influences the degree of one’s muscle strength and aerobic performance.  The four-day lab process, which first gathered anonymous saliva samples from students, eventually revealed that about half of the group had a form of the gene primarily associated with favoring the development of muscle strength and power.  The other half of the group were shown to have a variant of the gene that favors development of more aerobic performance and efficiency.

“The Education Leaders Experience program has been the best professional development I have been involved in during my 26 years in education,” commented Schatzabel.  “Sharing an educational opportunity with Lee McGlashan allowed us to bring the amazing work of Jackson Lab directly into a classroom at Wells High School.  My hope is that his students not only
learn about genetics, but have a better understanding of the research happening and the opportunities available right here in Maine”.   

The Education Leaders Experience Program is supported by the Maine Principal’s Association, Unum, and Educate Maine.  This group believes “…that if you immerse K-12 education leaders in the Maine economy and connect them with leaders in other sectors, they’ll create meaningful opportunities for students to be best prepared for the workforce and for life – and they will become stronger leaders in the process. …”(Source: the Maine Principals Association).

Students watching a demonstration
WHS biology teacher Lee McGlashan with students.  He is talking about the microcentrifuge, and what's happening in a microcentrifuge tube where a pellet of cellular material is separated out from liquid containing DNA.  Along with others in the photo are (l to r) Lee McGlashan, Lily Iannillo, Hailey Smith and Lauren Bartlett.

Students watching a PCR procedure
WHS Biology teacher Lee McGlashan explaining what was going on with the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) apparatus, in relation to what students could see on the laptop containing graphs of warming and cooling during PCR.  PCR produces millions of copies of the original DNA sample.   Along with others in the photo are (l to r) Lily Iannillo, Gary Andrews, Tyler Bridge, Kiah Holdsworth, Kim Towne, Lee McGlashan, Sarah Holdsworth, Hailey Smith, Lauren Bartlett and Delaney Bailey.
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