- Middle School
by Dr. Amy Cornell, Science Teacher
What in the world is biotechnology, and why is it important?
This past week, our 7th Grade science class visited Arvinas, a biopharmaceutical company in New Haven. Arvinas focuses on developing therapeutics for cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. This was a unique real-world opportunity for our students currently learning biotechnology concepts and lab procedures, to visit, tour, ask questions, and listen to high level talks about the science and thinking process behind developing and testing the technology at Arvinas—with the goal of encouraging student interest and accessibility in science. Students made connections, identified equipment, and observed hands-on techniques that we have been discussing and have started to learn in the classroom.
Biotechnology has become an essential tool towards understanding and manipulating living systems at the molecular level. Gene editing, synthetic biology, and personalized medicine, have all become integrated into everyday decisions ranging from the personal to the political, just as ‘coding’ has become impervious to our well-connected society. Developing scientific literacy early in the middle school years is beneficial to a students’ growth in scientific thinking. Introducing concepts and tools of biotechnology at the middle school level is a natural transition in preparing students for the sort of curriculum they typically encounter in their secondary or post-secondary science educational experience.
This year, 7th Grade science has infused an authentic biotechnology curriculum focused on DNA technology, into our TCS middle-school science program. Starting in September, classroom learning has focused on basic principles of cellular life, proteins, and concepts of genes and inheritance, through use of various textbooks, hands-on laboratory experiments, and project activities. Currently, we are in the process of deep diving into topics on DNA technology, developing technical skills, planning, organizing, iterative thinking, and carrying out experiments through student guided-inquiry using real-world scenarios.
This model of biotechnology instruction, through labs and projects emphasizes student-guided inquiry, allowing learning to occur in a way that reflects how scientists come to understand the natural world. Hands-on, real world scenarios, aim to help middle school students make sense of scientific information, and develop problem-solving skills through their own agency, assertion, and investigation. Students will be exposed to, and better understand modern technology platforms that are currently being used to build products, and uncover bio-systems and processes in health and disease, laying a foundation for high school and beyond.
This year, we have received new and used biotechnology equipment from our generous parent community and employ a science faculty with extensive background in biotechnology approaches and technique, who have previously worked as scientists in academic and corporate environments. The combined effort of our generous school community and our faculty’s real-world experiences, will allow for a biotechnology program to flourish at TCS, in our already rich environment of inquiry-based practices and process-heavy learning approaches, furthering TCS’s goal of “inspiring lifelong learners with a dynamic and rigorous curriculum.”