- Policy & Practices
In a brainstorming session with our team we discussed whether we thought subjects around synthetic biology were taught well in a good way in high school. All of us agreed that this was not bad at all. When we were in high school, we learned about a lot of subjects related to synthetic biology, but they were neven connected. Biology and chemistry for example were kept completely separate.
We are aiming to solve this by providing high schools with two different lessons on synthetic biology. An important requirement for these lessons is that it should be sustainable. It should be developed in a way in which it can be used more than once. Since we will not be part of the iGEM team in the upcoming years, the lessons are not developed to be taught by us, but by the teachers of high schools. This way, the courses can be used year after year. We created PowerPoint presentations and course guides for teachers and worksheets and answer sheets for students.
The first lesson is about the societal impact of synthetic biology. This is illustrated with three examples: Golden Rice, Designer Baby’s and Gene Drives. The goal of this lesson is to let the students form an opinion about how synthetic biology can be applied in society. This lesson is applicable for high school students in general.
The second lesson is about a more technical aspect of synthetic biology. In this lesson the steps of a protocol for cloning are described in an interactive way. The steps that are included in the lesson are: digestion, ligation, transformation, culturing, sequencing and expression. We filmed some of these steps and used those videos in the lesson. This lesson is aimed at final year high school students.
The goal of our education course is to connect the knowledge that students already have about synthetic biology together and to fill in the gaps in their understanding of synthetic biology. This includes the societal effects of synthetic biology and the process of forming an opinion on how we should deal with those societal effects.
Together with several biology or chemistry teachers of high schools in the region of Eindhoven we discussed our synthetic biology lessons. With their feedback we adjusted the lessons so they could really fit into the curriculum of the high schools. There were some schools that are very interested to use the lesson package, they will use the lesson package this school year and hopefully in the coming school years. One of the schools, Novalis College, replaced their 15 year old lesson program about ethics in biotechnology by our lesson about ethics in synthetic biology. The interesting and actual cases in our synthetic biology lesson were very appealing for the biology teacher of this school. Other schools used the lessons as an extra to the current curriculum with the possibility of using it in future years. Other schools that will make use of the lesson package this year are: Carolus Borromeus Lyceum and Augustinanium.
Our education package can be found downloaded below in English and in Dutch.
Lesson 1:Synthetic biology and society
Lesson 2:Synthetic biology in practice
At the 24th and 25th of April the TU Eindhoven celebrated its 60th anniversary with the Dream and Dare festival. The first day, the anniversary was celebrated with various music performances of famous Dutch musicians. The second day, a science tour was organized. This science tour was especially aimed at children, but was open for everyone to visit for everyone who was interested. The tour visited several buildings of our university. We had the opportunity to be part of this science tour. We cultured bacteria from smartphones, banisters, tables, etcetera on petri dishes to teach the children about bacteria. We explained the iGEM competition and the basics of our research to the parents. We also showed a video which explains transformation of plasmids in bacteria in a simple way. Most of the children were very interested in bacteria and certainly learned something new.
While the children were listening to our story about bacteria, we told their parents something about synthetic biology and the iGEM competition. In conclusion, this festival was a very useful way to reach out to the public and a small step in acquainting the general public with synthetic biology. Our team is very proud to contribute to sharing this knowledge.
After contacting the Dutch Institute for Biology (NIBI), they gave all iGEM teams from the Netherlands the possibility to design an advert in their news magazine that appears twice in a month: Bionieuws. Bionieuws has an edition of 6500 pieces. With this advert the possibility was created to explain iGEM and the project each team has been working on.
At the Open Days of our university, high school students will take a look at different studies and faculties to find out what they are interested in. During these days our team will present the iGEM competition and the TU Eindhoven team to the future students. We will explain the term synthetic biology and explain why the iGEM competition is important and interesting. Moreover, we want them to get interested in the field of research and challenge them to get the most out of their studies.
The 14th of April we were invited by the Dutch Biotechnology Association (NBV) to attend their conference: NBC-16 Biotechnology the Next Level. We enjoyed the interesting talks about new developments in synthetic biology and also participated in an refreshing discussion about the ethical aspects of synthetic biology. It was also nice to hear a presentation from the winner of iGEM 2015: iGEM TU Delft. A short report of the conference can be found here.
On the 24th of June we visited the SYNENERGENE forum in Amsterdam. SYNENERGENE is an European project which aims to open dialogue on responsible research and innovation (RRI). During this conference, we heard interesting talks about RRI. We also participated in an interesting discussion about the impact of religion on synthetic biology. A report of this interesting conference can be found here.