Loudoun County High School will be breaking in the new school year by learning about living organisms and their survival tactics. The Fralin Life Science Institute at Virginia Tech has provided the school with Biotech-in-a-Box kits.
The kits, which are an extension of the institute’s outreach program, use materials and equipment to conduct science experiments in the classroom.
County’s biology teacher Tracy Webster’s class, beginning Sept. 4, spent the week using the institute’s Caging the Blob box to learn about “intelligent behavior and survival tactics of living organisms” like slime mold, a release said.
According to Dr. Kristi DeCourcy, founder of the program, the experiments give students the opportunity to build a maze with Legos then pour oats containing slime mold in one section.
This will allow the mold to completely colonize, the release said. The oat flakes are then taken from the mold and placed on the other side of the maze. During the experiment, students observe the path that the mold takes to reach the flake and thus continue to survive, given the obstacle, the release states.
According to Cecilia Elpi, communications assistant at the Fralin Life Science Institute, the kits have reached more than 100,000 students across Virginia since it began in 1994.
Essentially, Biotech-in-a-Box is a box filled with learning tools that are equipped to help students conduct experiments in the classroom. According to Elpi, the kits are loaned to high schools across Virginia.
“Few laboratory exercises are designed to teach biology students about barriers that may constrain the movement of organisms. Here, we describe a unique inquiry-based exercise involving Lego mazes - the barrier - and the plasmodial slime mold, Physarum polycephalum - organism,” according to the institute’s information manual for the kits. “During guided inquiry, students construct mazes using Lego blocks and the slime mold is allowed to navigate through the maze and respond to the barrier. Students then generate and test hypotheses about the movement of the slime mold in response to different barriers in the open inquiry phase of the investigation.”
For more information visit fralin.vt.edu/biotech-box for different types of educational boxes the institute provides.
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