Education, Local, Research

Students step into teachers’ shoes in innovative DNA Learning Center program

by Amy Nisselle, DNA Learning Center

Program students from I.S. 059 Springfield Gardens show their classmates how to extract DNA back at school.

The Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center (DNALC) is inspiring the next generation of science teachers by giving local students the opportunity to show off their new biotechnology skills. The intent is to provide students with the opportunity to do meaningful hands-on experiments, and then to have those students teach their peers the same experiments.

In a collaboration with the North Shore-Long Island Jewish health system (NS-LIJ), every year the I.S. 059 Springfield Gardens school in Jamaica, Queens, sends selected 8th–11th grade students to DNALC West at Lake Success to learn the latest biotechnology and bioinformatics techniques over nine sessions. The Learning Center’s West location was established 11 years ago, the beginning of a now even broader effort to extend the reach of CSHL’s pioneering programs in hands-on genetics education.

Those “seed students” who are taught at DNALC West then get to teach part of what they learned to classmates back at I.S. 059.  Since 2008, 125 students have been through the program.

“We had tons of fun – learned, taught. Thanks for giving us gifts that will keep on giving,” commented Marcia Young, an I.S. 059 science teacher who brought 16 students to DNALC West as part of the program.

Dr. Christine Marizzi, DNALC West Manager and plant biologist, said the students absolutely loved being able to use ‘real’ equipment and experience what it’s like to do actual research. “They had lots of fun, but also concentrated and took notes to make sure they understood everything and could explain it to their classmates.”

The larger aim of the program is to give underrepresented and less-fortunate students an opportunity to experience the laboratory environment and gain exposure to a variety of career choices, says Donna Manchisi, Director of Marketing and Education, NS-LIJ.  She intends to track students involved in the program on their decisions to work in specific STEM careers, such as healthcare and medical research.

Find out more about CSHL’s DNA Learning Center and the programs it offers for 5th-12th graders (and their teachers) across Long Island, NYC and online at www.dnalc.org

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