This is a guest post from Ms. Eleanor Blanchard, a science teacher at Walnut High School, CA. Follow her on Instagram.
Teaching college level skills to my high school students is something I set out to do every school year. There’s a shift in student engagement when they feel like what they’re learning is important and meaningful. As a teacher the challenge is creating lessons that introduce students to lab skills in an approachable way. Ideally we are able to build on difficulty level throughout the school year giving students the opportunity to take small steps toward building lab skills.
My students had no experience in micropipetting or gel electrophoresis prior to completing the Edvotek’s Nucleic Acid Test for COVID-19. The kit does not require any other lab skills which made this the perfect introductory kit for novice students. The lab fell at the end of our respiratory system unit and we had already completed the immune system unit. Although, I do not feel students have to have the content knowledge from these two topics, it was a good way for me to contextualize the content they recently learned. In order to further engagement I created a handout for students so they could learn the background information needed to understand testing for COVID-19 and gel electrophoresis. In addition to the handout I created a presentation to guide us through the pre-lab portion of the handout which included playing Edvotek’s educational videos on how to load a sample into an agarose gel well and how to stain using FlashBlue.
In order to introduce the lab and allow for overnight destaining I chose to use 3 class periods to complete this lab. We are on a modified block day schedule so day 2 was a longer class period allowing for time to set-up, run gels, stain, and destain.
Day 1: Pre-lab (55 min)
Used presentation to teach the background information needed to understand the lab tests and results while students filled out the pre-lab section of the student handout. Called students back in small groups to practice loading samples into the gel wells.
Day 2: Run gel electrophoresis and stain gels with FlashBlue (75 min)
In order to teach over 70 students how to micropipette and how to load a gel I worked with students in small groups while the rest of the class worked on another assignment.
Day 3: Observe gels on light box and post-lab analysis (55 min)
Students observed the gels and took a picture to use while answering the post-lab questions. As a class we filled out the data table and discussed what the results meant. Students completed the post-lab questions independently before turning in the lab.
Tips and Tricks:
- Make gels in advance to save on instructional time. I chose to focus on micropipetting and loading gel wells so I casted the agarose gels about a week in advance and stored them in buffer in reusable Ziplock containers.
- Make a few extra gels so students can practice loading gel wells prior to lab day
- Have students dry load the wells to ensure the sample makes it into the wells. When submerged in the buffer solution the gel wells can be difficult to see, increasing the likelihood that students will load the sample above the well or risking the chance of puncturing the bottom of the well.