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Middle school girls explore genetics at Stephens College

January 25, 2016


For 22 middle school girls, this past Saturday featured an exciting science-packed morning of genetics exploration at Stephens College. The “Saturday Science for Girls” event was held for students in the Jefferson Middle School Adventures in Science Club.

Dr. Erin Sellner in the Stephens School of Health Sciences, taught the two-hour college laboratory experience in the E.S. Pillsbury Science Center on campus.

With the assistance of three undergraduate Stephens students—Gabrielle Finley, Gigi Kreibich and Brittany Lucas—Sellner led the middle-schoolers in two lab activities: one that included visualizing DNA and the other genetic variation.

During the first activity, the students extracted DNA in the form of chromatin from strawberries by disrupting the cell and nuclear membranes and ethanol precipitation. They got the chance to use a vortex and compound light microscopes.

In the second activity, students used M&Ms to demonstrate the random inheritance of alleles in a multigenerational pedigree to simulate genetic variation.

“They loved learning at their own pace in a no-pressure environment,” says Debbie Brunner, Executive Director of the Academy of Health Sciences at Stephens, who arranged the Science Saturday.

She said they found the environment at Stephens to be both “supportive” and “accepting” and learned that “making mistakes was okay.”

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