By Sharon Williams, Coventry University, UK
On the 7th and 8th of July, six staff and ambassadors from Coventry University ran a fun and interactive DNA activity for children age 7-11 and their families. The activity took place at the Coventry FabLab in the city centre. The idea behind the DNA workshop is to give the community an opportunity to have free family science activities. The event has allowed 7-11 years old to do hands-on activities related to Molecular Biosciences, with the support of their families. It has been shown recently that students lose an interest in Science at an early age. We aim to promote the positive side of Molecular Biosciences and by facilitating support from the family will create a buzz for the future.
This was the first time that this outreach event took place in Coventry and was funded by the Biochemical Society. The event ran Friday evening 4pm until 7pm and Saturday 11am to 5pm. The hour-long workshops covered what DNA is and where can we find it. The introduction to the session discussed what people knew about DNA and gave some basic background information about how DNA is found in all living things. Children and families then drew pictures of DNA, at different levels of knowledge.
The next activity was extracting DNA from strawberries, bananas and kiwis. Children taking part in the practical were given an introduction to basic safety precautions including wearing safety glasses. DNA was extracted from different fruits as mentioned before using household items such as salt, washing up liquid and rubbing alcohol. The consumables were supplied from the Biochemical Society outreach funds.
There was genuine excitement as the children saw the white threads forming in their test tubes. The gloop of DNA then was picked up with a plastic pipette and sealed in a small Eppendorf tube to take home. The children could choose more than one fruit to extract DNA from. The children and parents were very excited about the activities and were amazed by the ability to extract DNA from fruits.
During the day, refreshments and sandwiches were provided for the volunteers from Coventry University, ambassadors, and Biochemical Society members.
The last part of the workshop was to build DNA models, the kits were bought by the outreach grant. Children and parents enjoyed building the models very much, the children that completed the model received a prize (sweets) for their challenging work. The children were very proud of their work and some were willing to take a picture with the model.
After the exciting day, parents and children were asked to provide feedback. The feedback was very positive with high level of enthusiasm that more workshops should be regularly be included in the community.
Thank you for the Biochemical society for providing the grant and allowing me and the team to introduce the molecular sciences to our Coventry community.
The event went extremely well overall. We had amazing interest in the workshop and a total of 50-60 children and parents attended the workshop over the 2 days.
The feedback that we received from the children and their families was very positive, and they would really like to see more local outreach workshops.
Outreach grant recipient – Dr Sharon Williams, Lecturer Biomedical sciences, Coventry University.
I joined Coventry University as a lecturer in the School of Life Sciences in November 2014. I worked as a post doctorate research fellow in both the Chemistry and the Biology departments of Warwick University for 8 years. My research focuses on the biophysics and biochemistry of proteins, and understanding the mechanisms of enzymes. I have a wide range of depth and experience in molecular biology, biochemistry, and chemistry.
The Biochemical Society’s Scientific Outreach Grants are currently open and offer up to £1000 for outreach and public engagement activities. Read about previous activities and apply here.