Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School
Students make a big splash in biology week with the Amgen Biotech Experience
A teacher and technician from Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School first attended Amgen Biotech Experience CPD in July 2018. They borrowed kit during the school’s biology week in October 2018 so that students could take part in biotechnology activities in an “Amgen Extravaganza”, building on the school’s tradition of curriculum enrichment. Sixth form students from neighbouring Stanborough School also took part in the day. The school has since joined the ABE programme.
Following the OCR A level specification, a dozen sixth form Bishop Hatfield Girls’ School students with four guest students from Stanborough carried out activities that involved manipulating minute quantities of DNA samples and reagents, impressing the invited audience that included school leaders, governors and the local mayor. The school facilitated coverage of the day in the local press.
Amgen Biotech Experience (ABE) activities offer opportunities to make science ‘real’ and relevant to students who use professional tools and techniques to investigate scientific questions. Activities can be tailored to the science curriculum at all levels of study, and engage students through links to everyday life. Students at key stages 3, 4, and 5 at Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School use ABE kit to develop practical skills and techniques; acquire and use scientific vocabulary; gain understanding of scientific research techniques; develop scientific knowledge and understanding of the important field of molecular biology and ways that it is applied in biotechnology.
Activities include electrophoresis, cloning, restriction digestion and ligation techniques and investigating cheek cell polymerase chain reactions, all of which link closely with GCSE and A level syllabi.
Teachers and technicians
The teacher who attended CPD in Bishop Hatfield’s first year and led the activities has a background in biotechnology, but found CPD useful to update her knowledge with modern techniques and commented: “I think the greatest advantage of this equipment is allowing students to perform the DNA manipulation techniques they may have to explain in their exam so it cements their understanding of the processes.” The supporting technician developed her practical skills in biotechnology and enjoyed working with the students in the laboratory during the Amgen Extravaganza event. The training has now been extended to another teacher and senior technician in order to widen the scope of delivery.
During the enrichment day the students were able to check their intricate procedures with information available on their Chromebooks. They had the opportunity to explain electrophoresis to the visiting governors and staff. They were presented with certificates to mark their involvement. The day will be followed by further ABE activities to develop deeper understanding; including use of the polymerase chain reaction thermocycler, centrifuge and vortex as well as the intricacies of loading samples into electrophoresis gels to separate and identify DNA molecules, make predictions about the relative speed of DNA restriction fragments moving through gel during electrophoresis and better understand how DNA profiles can be generated.
Although the event focused on the use of the ABE kit by sixth form students - with year 13 students giving support to year 12 who were new to the use of such sophisticated biotechnology kit, students from years 9, 10 and 11 had the opportunity to practise micro-pipetting and basic DNA manipulation techniques.