GENO week at St. Joe
posted by: fraycroft
I wanted to update everyone on how the Cloning a Fluorescent Gene lab went at St. Joe High School.
First off, the kids at St. Joe were great. They were definitely a lot better behaved than I was when I was in high school. The CAFG lab was a great success. We started each day with a brief lecture, which usually included powerpoint slides. On one of the days, I forgot my computer and I noticed that some students had trouble visualizing the concepts I was describing, even though I attempted to draw similar pictures (from the original powerpoint) on the blackboard. I believe students learn best through different modes of instruction. Thus, it is best to offer as many tools (powerpoint, chalk and talk, video, hands on, Q and A, etc.) as possible to reach as many students as possible.
I will try to describe what the students learned throughout the week and a half (because of a break) as best as possible. First, we explained to the students that they would be cloning a fluorescent gene during the lab. So, we discussed what a gene was and of course a gene is not fluorescent, it’s respective protein product is! A major point of the lab was that the students got to see (literally, because of the fluorescence) how DNA is turned into a protein and how we can visualize this result in a lab setting. The students used PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to make millions of copies of GFP (green fluorescent protein) DNA and then inserted this DNA into a vector. They learned that a vector is a unique manufactured form of circular DNA that researchers often use to transport genetic material into a cell. Using the vector, which now contained GFP DNA, the students then inserted the GFP vector into E. coli cells. We then spent some time explaining that while the GFP vector was inside the cell, the E. coli would use it’s transcriptional machinery (DNA polymerase, etc.) to make many copies of the GFP vector and also produce mRNA transcripts of the GFP gene. Next, we discussed how the E. coli would use it’s translational machinery (ribosomes, etc.) to make protein from the GFP mRNA. Finally, the students were able to visualize the GFP protein using a long wave black light that excited the GFP fluorophores and were able to “paint” pictures using their fluorescent bacteria. In the end, the students were able to see how genes encoded by DNA could produce a protein and how as researchers we have the ability to manipulate DNA sequences.
I had a lot of fun with the CAFG week, and I look forward to doing this again. I am going to try and attach some photos taken by one of the teachers from the week to this post. I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and a happy new year! I will see you soon.