BioBus makes stop at Holy Family School
Published 1:10 am, Friday, October 30, 2009
Students at Holy Family School have been taught to walk around the property in a single-file line but on Wednesday, Kelley Collins` sixth grade science class couldn`t help but run to one of their destinations. That`s because they had been waiting weeks, even months, for the arrival of the BioBus, Connecticut`s one-of-a-kind mobile laboratory on wheels.
Many of Collins` students are fans of shows like CSI, Bones and NCIS and so it was a real treat to get on the BioBus and do their own investigative work. The first group on the bus Wednesday -- the bus was at the school Wednesday and Thursday -- took part in an experiment called "The Art of Forgery." Through forensic science -- using an agros gel -- they were challenged to uncover the real Mona Lisa. The students performed gel electrophoresis to separate paint samples from four "recovered paintings." The resulting patterns were then used to determine which paintings were forgeries and which was da Vinci`s original masterpiece (the control sample).
Sixth-grader Margaret Baik said the best part of the lesson was "using the micropipette (used for making micro-
injections) because you needed a steady hand for it to measure an exact amount of the paint sample."
Fellow classmate Owen Mayle added, "I think it was so great to be able to use the micropipette and the vortexer. These are things we would never get to see or use. I thought it was really fun and interesting to get to learn about science in a new way and to be able to do different things than we usually do."
Because of the BioBus, Collins said the students are able to use equipment they would not have otherwise been able use until college or certain high schools.
The students were also sent pre-lab work before BioBus, backed by CURE (Connecticut United for Research Excellence) ever made its way to Fairfield. Collins said she still would have covered forensic science had there not been a BioBus, but she wouldn`t have been able to cover it as thoroughly.
"I was easily able to go above and beyond what my normal coverage would be," she said.
Asked Wednesday what the students were gaining from the BioBus experience, Collins said, "It`s teaching them analytical skills from the experience of the lab."
The BioBus travels all over the state teaching students in grade 4 through high school. Collins talked to BioBus staffers when it was parked at the state science fair at Quinnipiac College this past March. She made a request for a visit to Holy Family and a month later she got confirmation the bus would be coming in the fall. It usually takes anywhere from two to four years for the bus to make a return visit to a school, according BioBus science educator Nancy Kennure. The Holy Family students knew the bus doesn`t come around often and they appreciated the fact it came to their school for two days. Four different classes at Holy Family (spanning fifth grade to eighth) were served by the bus. The other experiment, which seventh and eighth grade classes took part in, was called Mystery of the Crooked Cell, which had to do with sickle cell anemia, a genetic disease with an interesting evolutionary background; it is both detrimental and advantageous to those who carry the mutation. In this experiment, gel electrophoresis is used to separate hemoglobin protein samples and make patient diagnoses, setting the stage for a discussion of heredity and human health, according to a BioBus media packet.
Because the BioBus is in such demand, Kennure said it is hoped there will be a second bus up and operating within 12 months, one that will be geared toward elementary schools. This would cut down the waiting time for the original bus.
Baik said she was happy the bus was at her school and that she was old enough to participate.
Sixth-grader Jenna Csizmar said much of the excitement regarding the bus was because she and her fellow classmates couldn`t wait to get on it and see all the tools that they were going to work with.
Timothy Welch added, "We heard so much about it from Mrs. Collins we couldn`t wait to see it for ourselves. We just ran down the hill even though it was pouring rain out."
Welch wasn`t disappointed.
"It was awesome to actually use cool equipment like you see on TV because we would never have that in our real science lab. Using the vortexer and the micropipette made you feel like a real scientist. It was a really fun experience to learn in a bus that had all this cool stuff and to get to do the experiments ourselves."