- Blue Mountain College, Tapanui, West Otago
- School Level
- Lower secondary
- Number of years teaching
Curriculum area in which you teach biotechnology
Technology, Science, Agriculture
Favourite aspect of teaching biotechnology
Biotechnology is the perfect subject for student-centred learning.
Most successful biotechnology teaching activity
2006 was the first year that I taught biotechnology. I started off with a worksheet that guided students through the Biotechnology Learning Hub and helped them to think about different examples of biotechnology applications. We then used yeast to make different types of breads, and bacteria to make different types of yoghurts and cheeses. Students were able to evaluate the quality of their work by a taste test – which they really enjoyed. It was great for Literacy work also, as they had to describe tastes. They discovered that this could be quite a challenge. Students also produced a visual that demonstrated the knowledge they had gained from an in-depth study of the application of one aspect of biotechnology. At the end of the unit students sat a written test.
Favourite biotechnology teaching contexts
Foods are a great context for teaching about biotechnology because they make some of the principles very easy to demonstrate. For example, you need to make sure that you have the right conditions to keep the living organisms (like yeast / bacteria) alive if you are using them to create a specific food product. You need to have appropriate laboratory facilities, though, and be very strict about hygiene, etc.
Biotechnology contexts to investigate further
I am keen to develop another aspect of biotechnology that involves cosmetics. I think this would be a really interesting topic to develop as you could include a lot of practical activities into the teaching of the principles. Also you do not necessarily need to be working in the laboratory.
In November 2006, some of my students participated in a video conference with natural cosmetics producer Karen Farley, arranged by the Biotechnology Learning Hub. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would be happy to repeat the process.
Some things I found successful about using video conferencing: introduce the kids to the vc prior to the session. I had a mock up with Roxburgh area school for one hour the day before. We talked about and saw examples of good and bad practice in reference to sitting front on of the camera, waiting for people to finish conversations, speaking clearly, movement of arms, etc. Practice using the mute button to cut out noise in the back ground. Bright colours do not come over very well. It’s best to wear solid darker colours. Seating positions need to be thought about, especially where there is little space in the room.
Favourite biotechnology resources
There are plenty of resources around but very few that use easy language that Year eight students can understand. I am so glad that I found the Biotechnology Learning Hub. The material that is posted on this site is so relevant to teaching. My students really learnt a lot from the various news bulletins that are published, in fact that is where the students gained most of their information from. They now have an excellent understanding of the application of biotech in their everyday lives, as well as an appreciation the use of technology in industry.
Links with the biotechnology community
Because I have had little experience with biotechnology I am really excited to expand my knowledge base. In 2007 I will be a New Zealand Mathematics, Science and Technology Teacher Fellow based at Fonterra milk treatment plant at Edendale in Southland. I am looking forward to learning about the application of biotechnology in the dairy industry. I know that my lessons in 2008 will be enhanced due to my experiences gained during the Fellowship.
- 13 November 2007