Scientists in Schools

Body battles investigated

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  • Carolyn Moores, Townsville Grammar School, Townsville, QLD
  • Natkunam Ketheesan, Louise Veivers, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, James Cook University (JCU)

Learning how the body defends itself is fascinating. Imagine, then, designing your own experimental investigations with the help of real scientists. Townsville Grammar School Year 9 students did just that. During their three-week Body@War program they had help from Ketheesan and Louise, specialists in immunology.

The program, designed by Carolyn and Ketheesan, has been running since 2007. After an initial presentation and ensuing discussion, the students were guided through methods of experimental design in preparation for developing their investigations.

Ketheesan discussing results

Using their new skills, students investigated topics such as, 'Comparison of bacterial spread by coughing, breathing or sneezing' and 'The effectiveness of Dettol as a handwash'.

Louise and student prepare experiments

Analysis of the results proved to be rewarding. One of the highlights for Ketheesan and Louise was to introduce the concept that a successful experiment did not always produce results that supported the original hypothesis.
The high standard of student presentations has lead to Ketheesan using some of their slides in his undergraduate teaching at JCU.

"The students really enjoyed the experience. They were engaged in the learning activities and were delighted with their results. It was a wonderful learning experience," said Carolyn.

The final word is with the students. "It's more helpful to have real scientists make science more fun and interesting. Being able to design our own experiments and see the results is great," explained Angus.

Creating agar plates

Carolyn and Ketheesan discuss results Student measuring