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.

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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.

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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.

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