Scientists in Schools

From textbook to reality

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  • Marg Custance and Ashleigh Schofield, Orroroo Area School, Orroroo, SA
  • Kim Hemsley, SA Pathology, Women's and Children's Hospital
Being nearly 300km from Adelaide hasn't stopped Orroroo Area School students and medical researcher Kim visiting each other. Initially Kim visited the school in 2010, while in 2012 Year 10 and 11 students travelled to see Kim's laboratory at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

Kim's team is investigating Mucopolysaccharidosis type 111A, a rare inherited brain disorder affecting children. Working alongside the scientists, students prepared DNA gels and H&E stains (haematoxylin and eosin), observed cultured cells down microscopes and learnt to use equipment such as multichannel pipettes and a plate washer.

"My staff had an absolute ball and loved the students' enthusiasm," recalls Kim.

Using pipette

Using plate washer

By quizzing the scientists about their career paths, students realised laboratories are filled with people of different skills and educational backgrounds. "It was good to learn about the variety of courses the scientists went through to get a job in a lab," explained student Meg.

Kim hopes "...students now have the option of a career in science... I hope they realise you can do science even if you don't go to university, and do it really well!"

Back at school, the students referred to their laboratory experiences for the next couple of months. Marg reflects, "It has given the students a fresh perspective to information otherwise trapped in a textbook." Year 11 student Felix agrees, "It was great to see what an actual lab looked like…and how the theory we learn is put into practice."