The Good, the Bad and … another Teacher Exchange!
What happens if two fans of microorganisms meet at a European Science on Stage festival? They start collaborating! Read here the report of Declan Cathcart from Ireland who recently visited Andrea Bruggen-van der Lugt in the Netherlands:
In January of 2021, secondary school Science teachers Declan Cathcart (SonS IRL) and Andrea Bruggen-van der Lugt (SonS NL) began collaborating on a Joint Project for Science on Stage 2022. Andrea is a Chemistry teacher at Willem van Oranje College, and also works as an Educational Developer at U-Talent in the University of Utrecht. Declan is a Biology teacher at Temple Carrig School and also works as a Science education lecturer at University College Dublin.
Throughout the year, the two teachers have been working together on a module of activities around the theme of Biotechnology and Food called “The Good, the Bad and the Complex”. They have designed and trialed a range of biotech and bioinformatics labs under the themes of lactic acid bacteria and Shiga-toxin E.coli (STEC).
During the course of 2021, Declan and Andrea have met regularly on Zoom, discussing and planning their ideas, and developing resources for students and teachers. Declan worked away in his school lab during the summer months trying out and streamlining the microbiology and PCR lab protocols to make sure they would work in students’ hands. Andrea developed online activities for students so that they could learn how to use protein structure 3D visualisation tools and how to detect the toxin using mass spectra data.
In October of this year, Declan and Andrea were lucky enough to be able to pilot their activities with high school students from a number of schools around Utrecht. Declan received a Science on Stage travel scholarship to make this possible. Support was also gratefully received from Amgen Biotech Experience (IRL and NL; Declan was awarded an ABE Master Teacher Fellowship in 2021) and U-Talent (Utrecht University). Over two full days of laboratory workshops, Declan and Andrea had the privilege of working with 18 dedicated students who learned microbiology skills, PCR technology for detection of pathogens, protein structure analysis using 3D visualisation programs, and detection of Shiga toxins using mass spectra data. The labs worked very well, and feedback from students has been very positive.
Students were thrilled to be able to gain knowledge and skills, through hands-on experience of molecular biology tools and procedures. The Irish-Dutch duo is hoping that Andrea will be able to visit Ireland in the Spring so that they can continue their work to pilot, further develop, and refine their ideas and lab activities with Irish secondary school students.
Declan and Andrea are very much looking forward to sharing their ideas, experiences, and resources with their international SonS science teacher colleagues at the European Science on Stage Festival 2022 in Prague next March.
Report by Declan Cathcart, Temple Carrig School, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
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