Issue date: 22 March 2002

UWE ‘Choosing Science’ workshops for year 10 school pupils ~ 25 March 2002

96 year 10 School pupils from twelve Bristol schools will be visiting the University of the West of England on 25 March to experience practical science workshops on DNA and genetic modification at the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

The pupils will get some hands-on practical experience of isolating DNA from a range of tissues and organisms including strawberries, bananas, snakeskin and liver.

Dr Steven Neill, from the Faculty of Applied Sciences, said, “We will be addressing some fairly complex scientific applications. The pupils will be able to homogenise real tissues with detergents to break down the cells and release the DNA. They will also be able to see extractions with liquid nitrogen, used to freeze samples so as to aid tissue breakdown and DNA release. The DNA will then be analysed and the results discussed.”

The students will also get the chance to grow some bacteria, to use microscopes to look at bacteria from their teeth and test out anti-bacterial compounds on bacteria that glow in the dark, to give them a glimpse of scientific research.

Dr Julie Mcleod from the Faculty of Applied Sciences said, “We want to generate enthusiasm for science by showing the pupils some instant findings for subjects such as DNA manipulation, which have far reaching applications. We are also keen to show the wonderful facilities here at UWE and hope to encourage some of these academically able school children to see that science is a rewarding and useful subject.”

The Choosing Science workshops are a part of the Excellence in Cities (EiC) initiative. One of the aims of this initiative is give the opportunity to the top 5% in each year group the chance to participate in enrichment activities that support and complement the national curriculum.

Liz Banister, Deputy Head of Speedwell Technology College, and the Lead Co-ordinator for Gifted and Talented activities in East Bristol said, “These events help turn theory into reality for children. As a science teacher I am delighted to be able to provide this opportunity for the most able and motivated science students in our schools. It makes a real difference when pupils can see how exciting science can be, and how central to the way we live.”

Editor’s notes

1. The EiC initiative sets out a three year programme to improve the education of city children. Measures will build on existing policies to raise standards by focusing on the needs of individual pupils. The aim is to drive up standards in schools in major cities such as Bristol to match the standards of excellence found in the best schools.

2. Academically able children are defined in the EiC initiative as ‘gifted and talented’ as follows:
A student who is or has the potential to be a high achiever at GCSE in one or more subject areas. High achievement in this context is defined as achievement at a level significantly in advance of the average for the Year group in their institution.

A student who displays a high level of ability or has the potential to display a high level of ability in the following areas: PE, sport, drama, art, music, the performing arts and leadership.

3. Data on the proportion of 18 year olds from each LEA in England entering full-time undergraduate courses in the UK in Autumn 2000 shows that for Bristol the proportion was 13.7%, compared with 20.4% for England as a whole.
[Source – Table in Universities UK Parliamentary Review 12-16 November 2001 – Response to PQ by Helen Jones MP and Chris Grayling MP (pp6-11)]

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