Using Graduate Science Labs for Teacher Development

In the beginning of March I wrote about using undergraduate lab exercises as a tool for community out reach and teaching. You can read that post here. In April we are trying to expand the use of graduate labs for science teacher development. Recently a School of Ed class of Masters students taking a science teaching course sat in on an graduate lab where the students were purifying genomic DNA from mammalian cells.

I asked the Ed students to write down their descriptions and reflection as to how they might take their observations of scientists practicing science process skills and apply these to their students.

15 thoughts on “Using Graduate Science Labs for Teacher Development

  1. What process skills are scientists using in the lab and how can we implement those process skills in the classroom?

    I was very excited when the class got to go to the lab and see an experiment first hand. I love watching science experiments and was interested to see what the other students were doing.

    As the students informed me of what was happening, I began to wonder what thinking process they go through while performing an experiment. Are they similar to the thought processes of you and me or of younger students? How can the thought processes of scientists be applied in the classroom.

    During the experiment, the student I observed missed one of the steps by mistake. She only realized it after reading over the directions again. Because she caught the mistake early on, she was to correct the situation before the entire experiment was a waste. What I learned from this was that the student was able to improvise. She was able to process that she made a mistake and quickly thought of a solution to remedy it. This is a thinking skill we can teach our students. We can teach them that it’s ok to make a mistake but you should try to think of a solution to fix it before stopping the project.

    Another skill I realized while watching the student perform her experiment was the ability to following directions. If a student doesn’t follow the directions to a “T”, the whole experiment can be ruined. It is essential that students are able to follow directions and apply those directions to their task. Following directions is one of the most important skills a child learns.

    Another skill I saw was the ability to come up with different solutions when a problem arises. During the experiment, the student wasn’t able to get the chloroform out of the flask by using a micro pipette. To solve the problem, she used a pipette and attached it to an apparatus that allowed her to collect the chloroform. She was able to solve her problem by thinking through possible solutions and then acting on one of them. This same process skill can be taught to students by teaching them problem solving techniques.

    As you can see, there are many process skills that scientist use that can applied in the classroom. Your job is to try and implement these process skills into your lessons so that students are able to learn to their fullest potential.

  2. Last week we had the opportunity to observe a graduate lab class who were purifying genomic DNA from mammalian cells. While the process and vocabulary made absolutely no sense to me, I did realize that the lab students were using many scientific process skills that would be extremely useful for science students of any age. After recording the process skills the students were using, I began thinking that the skills are important in all scientific experiments and should be taught accordingly.

    These lab students were making an awful lot of measurements during their experiment. Measuring is a vital component in many experiments not just at the college level. Following directions is another key component in scientific process. This skill should be taught to your students by modeling the experiment for them step by step before they do it themselves. Modeling is a great way for students to understand what is expected of your class. The lab students also used many safety rules that were required of them while in the lab. They had to wear goggles, gloves and long lab coats. The scientific equipment keep us safe and enable us to do experiments without contaminating things. All of the safety equipment should be shown to students when teaching elementary school. Modeling how to use the safety equipment is also a good idea so that your students use them properly.

    Finally, team work and problem solving skills were also observed during the DNA purification. At times 3 or 4 students were helping each other do each step of the process. Students who had experience doing this kind of work were helping younger students familiarize themselves with the process. I believe that groups should be formed whenever you are doing an experiment in elementary school. Students can help each other through the process if they are having trouble.

    These are just some of the scientific process skills I observed during my short time in the lab. Although, these are only a few, I think they are vital to teaching science in general.

  3. I was very eager to go into the lab and observe the laboratory students working on their experiments. The experience would, in my mind, close the gap between the college classroom descriptions of scientific processes and teaching scientific processes in an elementary classroom. The exercise I was to observe was designed to familiarize the students with an alternate method of extracting DNA from eukaryotic cells. I learned from my lab student partner that this meant we were modeling laboratory DNA extractions.

    I was handed very detailed procedures outlining the steps. The handouts also included an instruction to wear safety gloves. When I asked the lab student why she needed gloves, she gave me a two-fold answer: (1) you have proteins on your fingers and (2) safety from exposure to hazardous materials. Of course, I had thought of the latter, but I had not thought of her initial reason, as working with DNA was not something I usually did. I noticed that she followed the procedures very precisely. Timing was very important as the mixture was produced. Tools available for use was also very important to keep the experiment moving at the right pace, as well as properly getting rid of waste.

    I noticed many of the basic scientific process skills happening in the lab. Lab students observed whether they had collected cells. My lab partner was regularly looking at and pointing for me to look at the tube for the cells. At each step, she ensured she had the proper measurements (Note: she was well trained in the use of the variety of measuring instruments available to her.) She controlled the variables (ie wore gloves). She could explain/infer what was happening in the solution.

    The lab student and I also talked about assessment. Is learning the technique more important than the end result? Is assessment based on getting the DNA? She told me that you did not want to try extracting DNA for the first time on an actual case. We concluded than that technique was more important. Also important for assessment of experiments we thought: “Did you learn the theory” , “Is student paying attention to work?”

    Given my observations, science process skills can be applied in the elementary classroom. Safety procedures can be laid out and carefully followed. Proper measuring would need to be taught in early grades in order for later experiments to proceed smoothly. Students are to use their senses (eyes, ears, etc.) to observe changes in their experiment/environment repeatedly as scientists use these skills habitually. Given elementary school age students, I would have written observations (as opposed to verbal) placed in some sort of portfolio or journal in order for the lasting habit to form. Lastly, I would ensure many opportunities for communication are available both between teacher and students and student to student in order for students to hypothesis, evaluate and conclude on a regular basis.

    In summary, this experience allowed me to view St John’s lab students carrying out those scientific process skills used in laboratories today that can be taught to and practiced by elementary school students in their own science journeys.

  4. Sophia Kossaris
    Ed 7136
    Last week, our class observed a science a lab on DNA extraction. The students would wash the cells they were working with really well so that they would be left with the cleanest cell possible. In order to do this they poured liquid in the tube with the cell in order to break apart the cell and make the liquid uniformly viscous, they would place it in a centrifuge (they did this several times), then they heated the sample, placed the solution in a vortex, centrifuged it once more until the DNA had clearly separated from the RNA and proteins. I found the lab observations extremely interesting, as I think the topic, or the experiment itself is really fascinating.
    The group of girls I observed, I felt worked really worked together and truly took the time out to explain to me what everything is and what each step meant, or did. Although in the beginning it was somewhat confusing for me, I quickly began to understand as some of the step repeated themselves. I think for myself, the understanding began more when I began to see the pellet on the bottom of each test tube, and how the girls would break it up by squirting different liquid-based substances in the tube. I felt that because I could clearly see everything that was happening, I understood the experiment better. It is evident however, that the students of this science lab took many steps in conducting their experiments, which continued ever after we were gone.
    Firstly, I thought the girls clearly understood why each step must be performed, and when the one instance which they did not, they asked so that they know for the future. Never, did the girls do something just because it was simply written on the directions they always knew the “why”. I thought this was important, especially in a science lab as this I feel shows you want to fully understand the experiment, and the relationship amongst situations (i.e.: what happens when I heat this, or what happens when I shake this?)
    Secondly, I thought as a whole, the class was collaborating rather well. They were helping each other with some steps, such as the centrifuge step, I would see one student taking care of 3 or 4 students’ tubes. I thought this was great as I could see it created communication amongst the students of this lab. Also when they transferred material over to another tube, they would label their initials on each of their micro tubes so that they won’t mix up each other’s work. Once again this is a form of communication and understanding amongst group members, but it also shows how neat and precise students working in a lab must be. No clutter or junk was on their tables, in fact the only thing at each group’s station was their instructions and their work materials.
    Finally, the most important part of the lab from my understanding is that their measurements had to be as precise as possible. They had to remember if they had to convert any numbers, however this lab seemed to follow the instructions word for word. But as the girls explained to me, the liquid measurements at all times should be precise, because this could ruin the experiment if not done properly. They also showed me the different ways they could measure out liquids and how doing it alone by hand it’s not as precise, as doing it with the electronic one which you can preset, and put a “break” on a specific measurement.
    Having said this, I would also like to say that I noted the safety guidelines in this lab, which is also imperative in any lab, and should be carried into every teacher’s classroom and lab. When we have students working with any type of manipulative or materials which may be hazardous in any way we must give them safety instructions. This specific group had to wear the latex gloves when handling the material, in case something spills on them. I saw that all except one student was wearing a white lab coat, probably for the same reason. We should never forget about the safety precautions in a science learning environment.
    Overall, I thought the experience was great and informative. We as educators should really have a good amount of understanding on the different learning environment each subject carries. I feel that by observing the science lab last week it gives us great insight as to what we may face as science teachers in the future.

  5. Laura March
    Edu 7136

    Last class we observed a Cell Biology and Function Lab where the students were extracting DNA from eukaryotic cells (lung tissue). The SJU graduate students used many scientific terms and words and many different materials such as: pipets, test tubes, cell scrappers, different solutions and solvents. This lab was very complicated but the scientific process skills that the SJU graduate students used: measurement, observation, communication, experimenting with the recording of data can definitely be applied to elementary school science classes.

    In the lab the graduate students had to measure very small amounts of solutions (DNAzol Reagent) using pipets and micro pipets. The pipets use the metric unit of mL. All science measurement is for the most part done in metric units. We, as elementary school science teachers, must make our students familiar with measurement of objects and liquids in the metric units. Teachers should spend time on making sure that everyone knows the difference between a centimeter and a meter or when you should use grams (to measure the mass of the object). It seems very unfortunate that many students are not familiar with using these units to measure until high school or even college. Teachers can start at a young age by having students measure plant growth in millimeters or centimeters or their own heights in meters. Students can also learn to classify objects by weight (mass). Each student or group could bring in one object and as a class we could weigh each object in grams. Liters seems to be the metric unit of measure that most students are familiar with because soda bottles are measured in liters.

    In the lab the students observed when their solution became “sticky” or gel like that was the DNA. Also the students got to observe the different phases (lower phenol-chloroform phase, an inter phase and a colorless upper aqueous phase) of the solution. Observation is a very important science process skill. It allows students to see and do firsthand what textbooks or the teacher may talk about. Students need to learn to compare and contrast, observe changes in objects or materials and see how different solutions interact (ex: oil and vinegar). Students’ observation should be recorded and will help them make predictions in the future. Teachers can have a class pet in which students can observe and record the growth, eating and sleeping habits of the animal. Students can observe the phases of the moon and record their results in the form of drawing and words or observe the weather patterns in the area for a period of time.

    The SJU students had to communicate with each other on what was happening to their solutions and they consulted with each other on when it was the appropriate time to complete the next step in the lab. The graduate students had to also communicate with the lab assistants when using the centrifuge machine (spins test tube at 12,000 times the force of gravity). Students need to learn to communicate their observations and findings when working in a group or to the class. Communicating and discussing results as a group allows you come up with more ideas then you would be able to come up with alone. Everyone brings their own point of view and past experiences to the group. Teachers should focus on having their students work in groups and communicating within the group to decide on ways to test their hypothesis or go about the experiment. Teachers can also have students present their finding to the class. In the class I observed the students work in groups and each group was in charge of researching one element from the periodic table and then presenting their findings to the class.

    Experimenting allows students to see what happens. The SJU students were experimenting to see the DNA. Experimenting is one of the most important process skills as far as I am concerned it allows student to test their hypotheses’ and see what happens. Students learn from doing. Hands on experiences will capture student interest. Teachers should get students familiar with testing their hypothesis’, recording results and using their finding to either predict future occurrences or apply their finding to different situations. This skills does not have to be taught through highly complicated experiments but can be focused on a simple questions such as, what are the best conditions to grow a plant? Or more specifically what type of soil is best to grow a plant in? Which object float? Which object sink?

    The scientific process skills are the foundation for all science learning. These skills get students to think on their own as oppose to memorize facts. These skills allow students to make their own meaning of science. To me these skills are not only fundamental to science but to all situations in life. To survive in this world we must be able to observe our surrounding and draw our own conclusions about the types of choices that are best for us, no one is going to tell us every step to take in life. Teaching the science process skills to our students prepares them for all the different situations that they may face throughout their lives.

  6. Kerry Wright EDU 7136
    Dr. Gillespie Reaction Paper IX

    Last week at class we had the rare opportunity to observe a graduate class constructing a class in Saint Albert Hall. The sstudents were purifying genomic DNA from mammalian cells. The whole process was fascinating. The amount of work was overwhelming, the equipment sophisticated, and the vocabulary was very detailed.

    Although, the class had the same goal the class was given two difference processes to achieve the same goal. I clearly saw the whole scientific process with either method. From my observations the students clearly conducted the scientific steps of Observation, measurement, inference, prediction, and experimentation. This was interesting. However, I felt there was more to learn from my observations about the emotional side to science.

    Future students need to understand with the scientific experiments you can expect complications. I saw how the graduate students struggled with the centrifuge machine to separate the mixture. Data should be collected 3 times and the results should be pooled. The graduate student I was observing showed me the data from previous experiments and she had several collections of data for one experiment. Experimentation takes a great deal of time. The students in the lab had planned to be there until 11PM. The graduate student also told me that she learned about the scientific process by doing it over and over again.

    I also asked the graduate student what skills she felt could have had in elementary school to help her in her current science program. She informed me that knowledge of the metric system would have helped her a great deal. The importance to the metric system was also discussed in our class discussions.

    As teachers, we have a responsibility to teach the curriculum standards required by the state. However, from this experience I believe that we need to communicate with the teachers and students in the next level of education in order to insure that we prepare our students for future educational and life endeavors. Also, I feel that if I had been presented with these emotional aspects of science listed above in my earlier years of education I would understood science better and enjoyed it more. Teachers need to be aware of the steps to the scientific process and the emotional aspect of science to prepare their students for higher learning in science and the realities of the scientific experiments.

  7. What process skills are scientists using in the lab and how can we implement those process skills in the classroom?

    During the DNA extraction exercise the class had to follow a list of produces that were given out. We were instructed to observe graduate student conduction this experiment and relate it to how we would use these process skills to teach elementary science.
    What I observed was that there are certain process skills that are needed to conduct a successful science experiment. The first and most important thing to teach students is safety rules. They had to were gloves and clean up any spills that my occurs during the experiment. The materials needed to do the experiment need to be present at the time of the experiment. A handout of instruction needs to be distributed to students and they should be reminded to follow the directions precisely. Certain process skills that are needed to conduct on experiment are paying attention to details and following directions. Teachers can model the laboratory experiment before have the student’s practice the technique. Time is a factor when doing a science experiment because certain students work quicker than others. For these students teacher can suggest that they document the time next to each step on their handout. An important factor to consider when creating a science lesson is to relate the activity to the student’s very day lives. This will give students a purpose or deeper understanding as to why they are conducting the experiment. In conclusion I really enjoyed this class and I was glad that I had a chance to observe the process skills that scientists use in a lab to conduct an actual experiment.

  8. Last week, our class was given the opportunity to observe a science lab aimed to familiarize the students with an alternate method of extracting DNA from eukaryotic cells. The group that I observed was part A. Which one girl told me was easier as they were extracting DNA from an easy kit (INVITROGEN). I later learned that they were isolating DNA from a living cell (Rat Pulmonary). The students were given a hand out with steps to follow as they go through their procedure. They followed each steps to ensure that get an end result was accomplished. Timing seemed to be very important, as the two students that I observed keep check of the minutes that were placed on the hand outs and ensured that it did not exceeded the amount.
    It was quite confusing at first just to watch students but after I started asking a few questions. I was able to comprehend what was taking place. At each step, they would explain to me what they were doing. I was also enthused on how these students were working closely together and no one was acting as if they knew more than the other, they all contributed and shared their knowledge.
    They poured liquid in a tube which separates the cells. This shows the pellet at the bottom and supernatant at the top. They then placed it in a centrifuge for 1 minute. This they did two times. Then they removed the supernatant. Solution A was added to suspend the cells and the cells were dispersing evenly in the solution. This shows that no pellet was found at the bottom. The students then incubate the sample for 10 minutes to break up all cell membranes. Then solution B was added and vortex until the precipitate was moving freely in the tube and the sample viscous.
    I was not able to observe the whole experiment as our session was up and the students had a long way to go. However, the experiment was quite intriguing and informative, and proved that science process skills can be a fundamental aspect in the classroom, it also proved that being in the classroom and learning science and memorizing information is totally different from doing a hands-on work, or an experiment where you are able to develop an understanding on your own.. Thus, teachers should encourage their students to practice hands-on activities, and to have them working in groups where ideas and knowledge can be shared and everyone can learn from each other in conducting their experiment and develop their findings.
    Another important thing is that teachers should instill in the minds of their students, that when conducting an experiment, all instructions and procedures are to be followed, because it is through that, they will be able to accomplish their task and at some point, able to relate it to other class activities or outside of the classroom.
    Communication is another important factor between the teacher and the students when conducting an experiment, teachers should ensure that there is proper communication between them and the students to get them involve in their task, and to develop an understanding of what is taking place, they should also ensure that students know their materials well when attempting different steps in their procedure in order to accomplish a successful assessment.

  9. Reflection on extraction of DNA from eukaryotic cells in the lab

    It was quite an experience to witness such an exciting experiment on extracting DNA from eukaryotic cells (lung). The students (scientists) were keen and followed directions carefully. As I observed this, my thoughts were if I was to implement this skill in an elementary science class how would I go about it. I came up with a decision that if I would conduct this experiment or something similar in my elementary science class, I would begin the experiment by having a sample experiment prior to this particular one in order to familiarize students with the process. I will also group students in groups of two or three, make sure that I go over each step/procedure at a time.
    There were numerous process skills that I observed. I will mention process skills a few process skills which I believe the experiment covered these include: observation, communication, measurement, and inference. As I observed these skills I thought of how important these skills are to elementary school students.
    Communication was the far most important process skill that I observed students perform during the experiment. My observation was that all students who were conducting experiments ensured continuous communication/consultation with each other as they proceeded from one step to another for during the entire experiment. When in doubt, I observed the students checked in with the professor to make sure that they were on task. This is skill that I think should be highly emphasized within elementary science classes. As we very well know children have short attention span it is therefore paramount that we as educators reiterate to students how it is important to ask questions when they are in doubt.
    Another process skill I was able to capture was observation. The scientists constantly observed whatever procedure they were involved in. This is a great skill to introduce in elementary science classes where children are adapting these skills. Adaptation of this skill is essential in daily life not science only.
    When it comes to measurement which is also a process skill that I observed. It is very important for science teachers to emphasize to students why correct measurements are needed especially during experiments. My take on this is that if I would explain to students how when measurements are wrong, especially in science; if the measurements are wrong, results obtained after an experiment will be skewed/biased. This is a skill which I think I can introduce to students and the reception will be great. I may start by tapping into their prior knowledge such as use of measuring cups when baking cookies. Which I know it is a process that many children have been involved in. This will then lead into use of other measuring instruments such as pipettes which I witnessed the students using. They placed the solutions including their control in a vortex, (spin and separate the DNA on the top). This was great to see. It is something that if my school district has resources and permit me to do I would love to have my students do this. This involves many skills critical thinking skills because the students must have reasons as to why they are placing the solution into the vortex. They must also be able to measure which is essential in mathematics and they need to know conversions to calculate various densities of solutions. I thought to my self this might be a section that I might consult with Math and ELA teachers to work together on the project and it will fun to the students.
    This was a fantastic experiment to be a part of it gave me an idea of how I ought to teach my science lessons. It also explained how learning/acquiring of knowledge takes various forms and as teachers we need to remember this when we planning lessons.

  10. Last week, our class got the opportunity to observe a graduate science lab. It was a great experience watching these students extract DNA from cells. You could tell that the students were enjoying themselves as they were partaking in the experiment. They were able to learn about DNA extraction by doing a hands on lab activity. These students were engaged and interested. I’m convinced that the lab students got much more out of this activity than they would have gotten if they simply watched someone else do it or listened to their teacher lecture for three hours. Observing and interacting with these lab students helped me see the importance of inquiry and hands on activities to learning. As a teacher, I hope to come up with engaging hands on learning activities where students can learn and have fun at the same time.

    As I watched this lab experiment, I saw many process skills being used by the students. I learned a lot about the way students work together in a hands on lab activity, and I hope to use this experience to teach my students. One of the main things I noticed from observing this lab activity is the way the students worked together. Not only were the students working together in their small groups, but they were also collaborating as a class. The students were very considerate of one another and the groups took turns using the centrifuge. When someone was confused, there was another student right there to help them. Everyone seemed to be really be working together as a team. When I am conducting my own lab with my students, I will explain the importance of team work to them. I will tell them how important it is for everyone to work together and help each other out. When there is team work, everyone succeeds.

    Another important skill that the students possessed that also goes along with team work is communication. By communication, I mean communication between students and between the students and the teacher. I noticed that the teacher answered any questions that the students had and was there to help and provide guidance. He even talked to me for a few minutes and did a great job at explaining to me exactly what was going on. The students themselves also communicated with one another and with me. They told me and their other group members step by step what they were doing and why they were doing it. The students seemed so natural in the way that they interacted and talked to one another. They made group work look so easy! I could tell that if any one of these groups had a problem, they would quickly be able to resolve it using communication and team work. As a teacher, I will explain to my students the importance of communication when doing lab work or hands on activities. When doing group work, not everyone gets to be doing or holding something at the same time. It is therefore important that the person partaking in the hands on part at the particular time communicates with the rest of the group. They should be telling each other what they’re doing, what they should be doing, and any suggestions they may have.

    Another thing I noticed from my observations was how careful and precise the students were. All of the students took their time when it came to following directions and making measurements. They were very careful in making sure their measurements were exact and correct. The students also followed safety procedures at all times. The group I interacted with explained to me the importance of wearing gloves when in the lab. They told me that any time you are working with chemicals such as these, gloves should be worn. The students were very careful when it came to both safety procedures and following directions. These students really cared about what they were doing and they didn’t want to make any mistakes. For a teacher, it’s incredibly important to explain to your students the importance of safety in a lab. As a teacher, I will make it my priority to teach students how to be safe in the lab. I will also explain to my students that they must be patient when doing lab activities. Every measurement and every step is important and you must take your time in order to get accurate results.

    Overall, observing this lab activity was a great experience for me. I can definitely use what I learned last week and apply it to my own students. Lab activities involve a lot of skills that students must master in order to be safe and efficient. As a teacher, I will do my best to teach my students the necessary skills they need so that they too can engage in fun hands on learning activities like these.

  11. Last week our class had the opportunity to observe a graduate class in a lab activity. Our goal was to observe these scientists practicing science process skills and how we would apply it to our students. Scientists use process skills to do research. Process skills are used to test something, collect data, make conclusions, and tell what you have learned. There are six basic process skills. They are observation, communication, classification, measurement, inference and prediction.
    Before you can begin any type of research, the students need to be introduced to the safety rules of the classroom. The class we observed was wearing their white lab coats, latex gloves and safety goggles. Their personal things were set aside away from the activity and their tables were clutter free except for their guide sheets and a pen. I believe that teaching the students ahead of time about safety rules allows you to have a smooth activity. Another safety feature would be to model how to use the equipment. Students should experiment with the equipment to get a feel on how to use it. The class we observed was very comfortable using the equipment.
    The first process skill was observation. During observation, students use their senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting to find out about objects or things that happen. The class was telling us their observations to help us understand what was happening in the test tube. This leads us into the second process skill of communication. The class communicated to their classmates and us what they were observing. I know that in order to have clear communication you need to be specific in your details and to share a common understanding of the topic. Since I had never heard these words or used those tools I had a very hard time understanding what the class was really doing. However, the scientists knew and understood each step and could communicate clearly between each other.
    The third process skill was classification. Classification is when you sort or group objects by their properties. The class did not classify. Instead they followed their guidelines. They communicated with others to see if they were all coming up with the same response. While following their guidelines the students came across the fourth process skill of measurement. The class needed to be very precise in measuring, to help in their precision they used tools. The units of measurement were based on the metric system, a system used all over science. I believe that it would be a good idea to introduce to your class the metric system and how it is used.
    The last two process skills are inferences and predictions. To inference students interpret their observations and from the data collected. Observation could be verbally, written or drawn. They could be in graphs, charts or diagrams. The student would interpret the new information with their prior knowledge and inference or guess what they observed. Predictions are what you think will happen. You experiment and investigate to know if your prediction is right or wrong. The class we observed had a clear understanding on what their conclusion should be but their mission was could they create that conclusion. They did infer while observing.
    I thought that going to see this lab helped me learn a lot about what I would like to do in my own classroom. I learned what preparations needed to be done to accomplish an activity. For example, introducing the safety rules, modeling tools and introducing the metric system. I also learned how the teacher guided the students in the beginning and then let them perform on their own. He was walking around guiding those that needed help. The students went through the process skill s so naturally that it was an enjoyable activity to watch.

  12. Last week my class had the opportunity to observe the Cell Structure and Function course while they were purifying genomic DNA from eukaryotic cells from the lung tissue of the rat pleural. I was a little nervous going into this observation because I thought I would have no idea what was going. I immediately found a group to work with that I felt comfortable observing and asking questions to. They explained everything I needed to know and clarified the scientific terms that I was unfamiliar with like pipette aide, centrifuge, and re-suspend. It was interesting to see the class was broken into two groups with the same purpose but different instruction on how to get there.

    Before beginning any experiment the students need to be aware of all of the safety rules to working in a lab. When teaching safety rules to elementary students it is important to make sure the students only perform those experiments conducted by their teacher’s instruction. The teacher also needs to do a demonstration of how to use all of the tools or equipment being provided. In this course, the students seemed to know all of the safety rules and were knowledgeable about using the equipment. They were wearing lab coats, goggles and latex gloves.

    During this lab the students were instructed to go step by step following their procedure of washing the media in order to be left with the cleanest and purist cell possible. The way the graduate students went about doing this was taking small amounts of the solution and drawing the fluid up and releasing it with the pipette aide or the micro pipette aide. During this stage they were using their scientific processing skills of experimenting and measurement. The students were experimenting by washing the media over and over again to see when they would get the purist sample. Experimenting is a method of investigating the relationship among different variables; this was their way of experimenting with the eukaryotic cells. The students were using their measuring skills by measuring the cells and taking the clumps and putting them back in the solution. It is important for teachers to explain why we measure things. Measuring is an essential skill that one begins to acquire as early as elementary school. Measurement can be used for a variety of testing or experimenting in areas other then science.

    Another scientific process skill being used during this lab was communication. Throughout the entire experiment the students were communicating their results with their group to make sure everyone was on the same page. Communication skills are crucial when working in a group with other people at any age level. I would apply this skill to my students by explaining that in order to collaborate effectively good communication skills are the foundation to any successful group work. Communicating allows you to come up with ideas you may not have been able to come up with alone. For example, one of the girls in the group I was observing thought they were done washing the sample. The other girl suggested washing it one more time and she was right. Throughout this entire lab the groups were always communicating their findings and suggestions before going on to the next step.

    As you could see, science process skills could be applied as early as elementary school and as late as graduate school. Working in a lab requires a lot of skills and responsibility for a student to take on. I enjoyed observing this class because the people were very friendly and willing to explain anything you asked them. I never realized how many scientific process skills are used in such a short amount of class time. As a future educator, I will have to teach my students the necessary process skills to be successful in working in a lab like this.

  13. How might you take your observations of scientists practicing science process skills and apply them to your students?

    I believe that our lab outing was the perfect example of how words/text can only go so far to reach students. The professor of the class we visited could have very well given his class notes on what happens in a DNA extraction experiment and called it a day. However, he and rest of academia are aware that true comprehension comes from doing.

    The students in the lab demonstrated all six science process skills:

    [1] Observation – Students were constantly modifying liquids and observing the effects, ie: “Following centrifugation the mixture separates into lower re, phenol-chloroform phase, an inter phase, and a colorless upper aqueous phase.”

    [2] Communication – Students were divided into small groups. Communication was very important in delegating tasks and ensuring the experiment was completed properly.

    [3] Classification – Students were classified into two groups to separate DNA (Group 1 = Aqueous Phase, Group 2 = Organic Phase).

    [4] Measurement – Students were constantly measuring liquids, ie: “add 500 uL chloroform…”)

    [5] Inference – The students used their prior knowledge of science to infer what they believe would happen next. “After we run the liquid through the centrifuge, it will look like [ ________ ] because we did a similar procedure in another lab.”

    [6] Prediction – The students made educated guesses on the outcome of the experiment. (“The DNA extraction experiment will not be successful because we did not remove the aqueous phase properly.”)

    Though my elementary school students will not have to perform an experiment as technical as the DNA extraction lab, they will have to perform similar science process skills. In order to be able to accomplish this, they will need guidance, but only to the certain extent. They should be given the freedom to experiment and make mistakes on their own, just like the students in the class we visited. No matter what issues they ran into, the groups I observed were able to complement the experiment. They eventually made it through all the process skills, but on their own schedule. I think this is an important reminder for teachers: give your students the time and space they will need to adequately work through their assignments. More often than not, they will reach your desired goal.

  14. During the last meeting, we observed a science class at a lab in the pharmacy and sciences building. This was a class experience that I will not forget. The opportunity to observe these students and the intricate work they put in is rewarding in that, we as an education class, observed not only the scientific aspects of the lesson, but more so the psychological foundation underneath it. As education students, we cannot understand exactly what every instrument did or what all the terms were called, but one thing that was clear, these science students had a passion for what they were doing. As it was evident, the students were working in groups, running around the room at times to help someone else out, or to put a tube into the centrifuge. Either way, they were entirely focused on the mission of that lesson. They weren’t involved in any other type of conversation except for the work they were conducting during that lab. That is the main thing that stood out to me, as I asked one of the students how long they do this for, he replied to me, “we don’t usually leave here until about 11p.m. or so”. He had also informed me that he was working on that lesson since 6 p.m. that day. This is the type of passion and determination that is necessary for us teachers in order to teach science, or any subject for that matter.
    The way that the cell extraction was important to these students, is the way that teaching science needs to be for instructors. From this observation, teachers need to understand the factors of having the students deeply involved in their work, similar to the science students we observed.
    Some of the science process skills that I observed during the lab included: Communication, Measurement, Observation and Prediction.
    Communication was clearly evident as the classmates continued to talk with each other, explain certain procedures to one another, even some students leaving their table to go to other tables to assist in the experiment.
    Measurement was apparent in that the students consistently measured the liquids they were working with. They were careful in observing these amounts by holding the tube up to the light to make sure they weren‘t adding too much.
    Observation was a major factor in this lab. Observing is the foundation as to ensure that everything gets done correctly. They also observe when a result is incorrect and quickly needs to be changed in order to attain the right answer.
    Prediction was also evident in that they were talking to us about what they thought would happen after each procedure. Some students that were more experienced with the lesson and were able to foresee what the result would be, as they had done it before.
    Teachers in science need to observe these process skills in their own classrooms. Every student will have different abilities and learning levels, however these skills apply to all students. All students can speak with each other about their lesson and measure what they are working with (for example, whether it be the volume of water in a test tube, or the weight of ten pennies on a weight scale). Students will always observe, as it is just a standard part of every lesson and students can predict what their outcomes will be. It is not that every student will understand these methods the first time, but there are those students that always help out their fellow classmates, and in the end, the class can learn and grow at the same time. As our class observed the lab students helping one another, that is an essential part of learning and should always be encouraged in our classroom. These scientific process skills are required in order to have a successful science class. There are many other aspects that are involved besides the ones mentioned above, and with that, the teacher must be able to incorporate all of the positive learning aspects, encourage working with each other and being understanding when students have questions or troubles. Science is a part of everyone’s life, it is a subject that students need to understand, and is a very important class that should be absorbed and taken with them throughout their life. From understanding what is in the food they are eating, to how the garden in their backyard is growing, these are everyday concepts that if are understood correctly from the onset, will result in a student that is prepared to conduct future science experiences and learning.

  15. Unfortunately I was unable to attend this observation. However, I am going to post what I think I may have felt if I did go.

    I most likely would have been really excited to see the science lab in action. I enjoy watching science experiments being performed, and probably would have wanted to participate. I am sure there were many scientific skills present in this science experiment, which there should be, since it is being performed in a class like that.

    In the end, I wish I was able to attend the class and see all the fun and exciting thing my classmate saw.

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