Grade 12 biology students Alex Alfred (left) and Micah Hansen (right) work out a diagnosis for a fictional character with an unspecified genetic disease Monday during Geneskool’s visit to Timberline Secondary.

Campbell River students get their hands on some molecules

Some Campbell River high school students got a little bit closer to some of life’s smallest elements

Some Campbell River high school students got a little bit closer to some of life’s smallest elements Monday. Let’s Talk Science volunteers from Genome BC’s Geneskool program were touring Vancouver Island and stopped by both Campbell River Christian School and Timberline Secondary.

“I love that they come with hands-on activities for the kids,” says Timberline biology teacher Natasha Ubriaco, who has invited the Geneskool volunteers to her classroom every year since she first experienced their presentations “almost a dozen years ago now when I was at Phoenix.”

Ubriaco says her favourite aspect of the visits is the fact that everyone – teachers, students and the volunteer presenters – gets something out of it.

“I’m always looking for more of those types of hands-on experiences to bring to the classroom, so when they show up, I can replicate that in future years – if it’s a good activity.

“So it’s good for me, it’s hands-on for the kids and gets them in front of and exposed to people coming straight out of university, oftentimes with master’s degrees or PhDs, and it’s really cool for the presenters, because they get to get in front of a classroom, which is what some of them are trying to end up doing in their careers.”

Jennifer Boon, communications manager for Genome BC, says the demonstrations are part of what the organization is trying to achieve: to make science more accessible for people.

“We have a provincial mandate to go out and about into communities, so we do public talks, school workshops, we send suitcases full of stuff all over the province,” Boon says. “Genetics isn’t really fully represented in the curriculum at the moment, so this is really an opportunity to add that extra value for students in B.C. Molecular biology is such a big part of everything that goes on around us, so if this can inspire a few more kids to get involved in science and get them excited about these essential aspects of life, the better off we’ll be as a society in the future.”

The workshops are also a chance for students to get a sense of the “why?” of studying science.

“There are a ton of occupations that come from this kind of study and research,” Boon says, adding, “the volunteers who go out are usually either masters or PhD candidates in it, so they’re great representatives because they’re living it and doing it and the kids get to talk to them and ask, ‘what do you do?’ and ‘why do you do it?’ and ‘do you love it?’ and get some real-world answers from real-world scientists.”

Geneskool offerings range from quick, 25-minute activities where students make an edible model of DNA to learn about the building blocks of life to hour-long case studies involving medical genetics, where students diagnose – through symptoms – a fictional person’s genetic disease and learn about the mysteries held within our genetics and how they are passed along to future generations.

For more on Genome BC or their Geneskool program, visit genomebc.ca

Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Timberline biology teacher Natasha Ubriaco (centre) and presenters from Geneskool talk to a class about problems associated with biases in scientific data collection.