Biological Sciences Elementary School Outreach Program 

DNA & Alias Activity

Most people already have some sense of wonder about DNA. This activity provides a hands-on opportunity to extract and handle this mysterious substance essential to all living things. It is an opportunity to reflect on important concepts to biology - mainly that the cell is the basic unit of living organisms and all living organisms have DNA. In addition, it can be used to demonstrate other important aspects of cell biology, such as the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell, the location of DNA in a membrane bound nucleus of eukaryotes. By extracting DNA from plant cells students learn that plants, like other living organisms, are made of cells.
The extraction process teaches participants about the chemical properties of biological molecules and the reagents used for the extraction. It also highlights the importance of scientists relying on information from many fields, such as biology and chemistry. The DNA alias activity can be combined with the DNA extraction activity to demonstrate the function of DNA to code information to build the things that cells need. Using their own names, students learn how the sequence of bases in DNA can be used to code information to build a protein.

This workshop is suitable for Grades 4 - 8 and is 90 minutes long.

Life under the Microscope

Cell biology workshops expose kids of all ages to the interaction of live cells and microscopic organisms with their environment.  Using hands on, interactive exercises with real microscopes, students not only learn to use this equipment, but gain an appreciation of how human activities impact these microscopic environments. Customizable, age appropriate workshops include a variety of interesting activities, focused at a cellular level, which aim to answer questions such as:

a) What’s in the food we eat?
b) Where are the brilliant colours in plants made and stored?
c) What are the plant defence substances? Where are they stored? What do they look like?
d) How do plant cells contribute to make our planet a beautiful and livable place?

Younger age groups will enjoy a workshop involving “Mr. Phytoplankton”, a SpongeBob-like character who helps them relate the real world of unicellular organisms and their functions to their respective habitats.

Older age groups will appreciate being exposed to the diversity of the living world by exploring the structure and functions of organisms from all 5 kingdoms. Students will explore what makes a flower beautiful and soft, what do we eat in a salad, what do we eat in nuts and seeds, what makes some plants quite nasty and poisonous,  what makes flowers fragrant, and what attract bees and other pollinators at the cellular level. 

This hour-long workshop is suitable for students in Grades 5 - 12.

Vertebrate Bones

The bones tell the story! Just like forensic examiners in prime time detective dramas, scientists examine the bones and teeth to gather information about the organism. Close examination of vertebrate bones and teeth not only gives us information about the ecology of present day vertebrates (what they eat, how they move, where they live), but also the history of vertebrate evolution can be followed by examining animals from different vertebrate classes. Vertebrates are divided into nine classes: five classes of fish (two of which are now extinct), amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Examining the bones of vertebrates shows us how these animals have adapted to life in the air, water, and land. Students work through a quiz sheet, which requires them to look closely at the specimens. They will have the opportunity to handle specimens which demonstrate the diversity of body sizes and shapes present within Vertebrata.

This 1 hour workshop is suitable for students from Grades 3 - 7.

Discover Insects

Insects are the most numerous, diverse animals on our planet, and yet many of us know almost nothing about them. Students of all ages can remedy that by handling real specimens (living and preserved) to gain an appreciation of these complex creatures.

Younger groups will learn the basic characteristics of insects and practice describing them. They will learn to sort them into basic groups. Weather permitting, groups may also practice catching these insects in nature. They will learn answers to:

  • What makes something an insect?
  • How do you tell different insects apart?
  • What do insects need to survive?

Get “inspidered” – Learn about the world of spiders and what they can teach us (K-4)

The fear of spiders (arachnophobia) is common and seems to be learned during childhood. However, spiders in general are not dangerous and are adapted to fundamentally different lifestyles, including different web-types (burrow, orb web, cob web and their functions) and spider-morphology (e.g. sexual dimorphism)

In this workshop participants will be gently introduced to the world of spiders. They will learn how diversely specialized different spiders are; each perfectly adapted to their world. Instructors will debunk myths and misconceptions and show (and personally experience) how fact-based education drives out fear.

A 2 hour workshop for grade K-4, max ~30 students

Learning outcomes summary:

  • Learn about the evolution and adaptation of basic spider biology (example of web types)
  • Recognize the importance of trustworthy information sources to reduce misconceptions
  • Learn some fun facts that will help change the perception of arachnids and alleviate a fear of spiders!

Curriculum competencies reviewed:

  • Questioning & Predicting: Importance of asking questions to address myths/misconceptions
  • Planning & Conducting: Observe a live spider, building a plasticine spider
  • Applying & Communicating: Reflection on how “spiders are not dangerous but really cool” impacts own/other’s lives

Get “inspidered” – Learn about the world of spiders and what they can teach us (5-7)

The fear of spiders (arachnophobia) is common and seems to be learned during childhood. However, spiders in general are not dangerous and are adapted to fundamentally different lifestyles, including different web-types (burrow, orb web, cob web and their functions) and spider-morphology (e.g. sexual dimorphism)

In this workshop participants will be gently introduced to the world of spiders. They will learn how diversely specialized different spiders are, each perfectly adapted to their world. Instructors will debunk myths and misconceptions and show (and personally experience) how fact-based education drives out fear.

A 2 hour workshop for grade 5-7, max 30 students

Learning outcomes summary:

  • Get to see live spiders and learn how to interact with them
  • Learn about the evolution and adaptation of basic spider biology (example of web types)
  • Learn some fun facts that will help change the perception of arachnids and alleviate a fear of spiders!

Curriculum competencies reviewed:

  • Questioning & Predicting: Importance of asking questions to address myths/misconceptions
  • Planning & Conducting: Conduction of experiments and evaluating them
  • Applying: Recognize significance and impact of public misconceptions
  • Communicating: Reflection on how “spiders are not dangerous but really cool” impacts own/other’s lives

Take a Stand: Youth for Conservation program

This program takes students on a journey through the waters of British Columbia’s west coast into the heart of the largest temperate rainforest on the planet—the Great Bear Rainforest. Pristine ecosystems and a coastline of immense beauty provide for a way of life rich in culture and history, and youth will learn about the connections that First Nations communities share with the waters and lands. The social and scientific challenges facing this area and the communities that it supports will be relayed by a professional expedition leader and standup paddleboarder.

The Take a Stand Community Innovation Challenge contest is open to Grades 3-12. Students will be encouraged to enter the contest and submit their ideas for youth “action projects” related to educating the public on an environmental issue, protecting wildlife/habitat, lessening climate change, reducing waste, or creating other positive impacts within their communities. http://www.takeastandforconservation.com

45 mins to 1.5 hours

Open to Grade 3-12 students