Thomas Alleyne Academy
More than 350 students from years 7 – 13 enjoy the Amgen Biotech Experience
Staff from Thomas Alleyne Academy first attended Amgen Biotech Experience CPD in July 2017. Each year since then, more than 350 students from years 7 – 13 have undertaken practical biotechnology activities. Eight teachers supported by an experienced technician have been involved in delivering activities within the taught curriculum including A’ level and GCSE, and the extended curriculum through science clubs and after school activities. The school involves whole year groups and is committed to wide participation.
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 from year 7 upwards at Thomas Alleyne Academy 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.
Year 7 students use the ABE kit to undertake micro-pipetting – learning about the importance of this technique and practising correct ways of using micro-pipettes. They applied their understanding of DNA when investigating orang-utan parentage. Year 10 combined science students practise electrophoresis, cloning, restriction digestion and ligation techniques and investigate cheek cell polymerase chain reactions; year 10 GCSE triple science students and year 12 A level students undertake electrophoresis and PCR activities. Some of the activities undertaken by older students highlight ethical issues.
Teachers and technicians
Teachers report that they find the most enjoyable part of implementing this practical work to be ‘Doing real life science and techniques’. They gained new knowledge and skills as a result of involvement with ABE and recommend the ABE programme to other schools.
Teachers and technicians report that students benefit by ‘Doing things they have never done before – getting first-hand experience in lab techniques, and that the students ‘Loved it all’!
Students’ motivation is strong. They describe the activities as ‘really enjoyable, not normally available in school, although quite difficult because of the steady hand needed for loading the gels’. Several of them plan to pursue science careers, and this interest has been boosted by their engagement with ABE. Students describe the laboratory as looking ‘really exciting’ when set up with the ABE equipment. Key stage 3 students were amazed at the minute volumes involved in the use of micro-pipettes. In 2019 the school piloted the use of a student survey to gather their feed-back and suggestions.
Students reported that ABE activities are enjoyable and interesting. Most described improved understanding of molecular biology and biotechnology and new practical skills in these areas. The opportunity at key stage 4 to carry out complex practical procedures and understand the intricacies involved in manipulating DNA meant students gained insight into the world of research. A level students better understood more theoretical aspects of molecular biology through implementing practical biotechnology techniques.