The DNA of Learning: Teens Tackle Animal Poaching Through Genetics

Uploaded by edutopia on 14.04.2010

>>Jay: Let's get started.
So we're gonna start with our simulated bush meat today.
And we have three samples.
>>Narrator: Something big is happening
in this eleventh grade biology class.
>>We're trying to actually kinda change the world a little bit.
>>Jay: We thought up a lesson that would incorporate aspects
in molecular biology, bioinformatics, evolution,
ecology, zoology, biochemistry.
And so we created a way to teach all those things together.
>>You wanna check it out, describe, write down some observations,
what it smells like, what it looks like.
>>Narrator : Jay Vavra's students are learning
to identify meat using DNA barcoding.
The ultimate goal of the project is to develop forensic techniques
that can be used by African law enforcement officials
to combat poaching, by identifying the meat and fur
of illegally hunted wildlife.
>>Jay: These are photos that I got last week from one
of our collaborators in Nairobi.
This is an eland.
>>Elizabeth: I think it's interesting because it's relative
to something that's going on in real life, and not only that,
but it's like a crisis, it's like an issue.
>>Jay: I really believe in original research to discover something
and the students know what they're doing has an application.
It's not just going to the teacher's grade book and such.
>>Point one which is that line and point five, so you're like--
>>Mari: You always hear about this kind of science being used
in the real world to fight crime and all that, but here we actually get
to partake in that, which is really great.
>>Is it enough?
>>No, it's not enough.
>>Narrator : Like many high tech teachers, Dr. Vavra brings a wealth
of experience and passion into the classroom
from his previous professional life.
>>Jay: I love all aspects of biology and worked in the biotech industry.
I worked in archeology.
I've also done research in Antarctica and northern California
and different areas in biological sciences,
and then try to bring that into my classroom.
>>Narrator: Instead of grades on high stakes tests at the end of the year,
students are assessed on their contribution
to a final class product.
In this case, it's the creation of the forensics workshop
that will be given in Africa.
>>Jay: We started a project last year and took nine students to east Africa
and met with collaborators there.
Found that there was a great need for this in Sudan,
Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
And we talked about going back and setting up the workshop.
>>Openye: So without DNA, I don't see us succeeding in prosecution
of wildlife cases in east Africa.
>>Kit: This isn't Honors what we're doing.
This is just a regular biology class.
Everything we're learning is completely relevant.
Now you put it in there and we'll take it back over there.
>>Jay: I know they're engaged and they believe in what they're doing.
They're going to teach others at conferences,
and so they know there's a next step to this.
>>Mari: I know everyone's really serious about it,
'cause it's a serious issue, but this is really a lot more fun
than you'd be able to do in any other classroom, because you're actually--
it's gives you kind of a sense of importance.
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