Science, technology, engineering, and math, also known as STEM subjects, are an essential component of a well-rounded education and for some students may be the gateway into future careers and further exploration. The 2018 Indiana Department of Education STEM Strategic Plan states that all students should graduate with critical thinking skills and be prepared for an innovation-driven economy by accessing quality, world class STEM education every day in the classroom. Washington Township Schools have committed to this endeavor in classrooms across the district and Advancement Center grants have supported this goal.
North Central High School students taking AP/IB Advanced Biology with teacher, Mr. Hwa Tsu, encounter STEM activities everyday as they engage in problem-based learning and inquiry-based instruction. As part of their curriculum includes genetics and molecular genetics, he aims to give the students an authentic experience with DNA techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gel electrophoresis. A recent Advancement Center grant was awarded to purchase a PCR machine also known as a thermocycler and lab supplies. Mr. Tsu says, “[a] PCR machine means that my students can have hands-on experience doing what researchers do on a daily basis. It means that my students can do PCR instead of just learning about it from the book.”
PCR is an important technique in modern biology that allows the amplification, or copying, of tiny amounts of DNA that can then be analyzed. It is practical in many scientific investigative and clinical applications. As the students work through their Biotechnology Unit they will amplify and then sequence their own DNA. Through an experiment that targets a dimorphic site on chromosome 16 known as PV92 Alu insertion, students will determine if they have DNA that codes for 2 possible products known as long or short segments. The Alu insertion is not diagnostic for any disease or disorder, but further evaluation of the observed data can be used by the students to study population genetics and related material.
The Advancement Center is proud to support educators like Mr. Hwa Tsu in their pursuit of initiatives that will allow students to gain a better understanding of course content. We hope this inspires Washington Township students to pursue future endeavors in STEM related fields and beyond.