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November 3, 2016 at 8:33 am

Graduate Students Help Elementary Students Extract Strawberry DNA

Graduate students Proma Basu, Emily Keil, Laura Mason, Danny Wolf, and Joshua Evans stand outside the Coolville elementary.

Graduate students Proma Basu, Emily Keil, Laura Mason, Danny Wolf, and Joshua Evans stand outside the Coolville elementary.

By Heather Willard
PACE Writer Environmental & Plant Biology

The Plant Biology Graduate Student Association participated in family science night at the Coolville Elementary School, teaching students about basic biology concepts, including DNA extraction and how the Venus Flytrap “eats.”

Joshua Evans, graduate student and member of the Plant Biology Graduate Student Association, said the night remind him of why he started studying science.

“I remember how exciting science night was when I was younger, and watching the demonstrators show us cool science experiments,” he said. “It’s a rewarding feeling now, being the demonstrator on the other side of the table and watching the smiles form as their strawberry DNA becomes visible.”

The graduate students taught the younger students how to extract DNA from strawberries using everyday ingredients in a hands-on demonstration. The students showed what makes up a genome. The experiment is simple to do but commands the attention of the children as the previously unseen DNA is revealed in this common food.

Feeding Venus Flytraps also engaged the hands and minds of the children at the event. Plants are typically seen as non-mobile, and seeing and interacting with the carnivorous plants is a great way to interest the children and draw them toward science. These carnivorous plants in the wild live in habitats with few nutrients, so they supplement their diet with the nutrients from the bugs.

Laura, Danny and Josh engaging the students in extraction of strawberry DNA, while Emily and Proma interact with students over the Venus Flytraps.

Laura, Danny and Josh engaging the students in extraction of strawberry DNA, while Emily and Proma interact with students over the Venus Flytraps.

Dr. Kim Thompson, Lecturer and the Plant Biology Graduate Student Association adviser, said that these types of scientific outreach opportunities are important for keeping children interested in the sciences from an early age throughout their lives.

“Children benefit from early and consistent exposure to science concepts and graduate students are enthusiastic about offering this service to the community,” she said.

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