“Awesome – four pups and they have all their fins,” said 5th grader Brycen Downey at Wheeler High School last Thursday, March 15.
Downey helped remove the pups from a female dogfish shark in Wheeler Center for Advanced Studies’ Post-AP Advanced DNA Genetics Lab. While Downey and his classmates are not regular students in the Wheeler Magnet Program, they worked with the high schoolers to dissect sharks in the lab. The 4th and 5th grade Target students from Powers Ferry elementary school are studying sharks and how sharks’ anatomy compares to human anatomy. Last week, they donned goggles, aprons, and gloves and spent the day with 11th and 12th grade Post-AP DNA Genetics students to study DNA and the internal parts of dogfish sharks.
Under the supervision of Wheeler Biology and Genetics teacher, Maggie Kelavkar, and Powers Ferry Target teacher, Kristine Anderson, the high school students used scalpels to open the sharks, and the elementary students used probes to pull back tissue and remove organs. The dogfish, a common shark found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, is frequently used for lab studies.
“The shark’s liver is huge, but the heart is smaller than a peanut – it only has two chambers,” said Damariz Ortiz, a 4th grader who hopes to become a veterinarian.
Mrs. Kelavkar, who is collaborating with elementary school students for several lab activities, and Ms. Anderson have collaborated on other projects over the years.
Two years ago, the Target students dissected sharks and last year they dissected frogs. “The kids really like being in a real science lab and working with the older students,” said Ms. Anderson, “but this is the first time we’ve ever dissected a female with pups.”
Mrs. Kelavkar hopes to involve the elementary students in more projects with genetics techniques, giving the students more hands on science experience. This will “peak their interest in science at a very young age and build a generation of science literate citizens.” “Working with the younger kids is a great opportunity for vertical alignment of the curriculum as well as sharing resources in a time of economical crisis.” Mrs. Kelavkar’s Genetics Students “wowed” the young elementary students with bacterial transformation, which is taking a gene of interest (gene that controls the production of a green protein) from one organism (Jelly-fish) and cloning it into bacteria ( E.coli). Mrs. Anderson’s students had a lot of questions about how the transformation is done. “How can we make bacteria glow? Can we make insects glow?” “These questions tell us that we have sparked an interest, and as teachers we can take it to the limits,” says an excited Mrs. Kelavkar.
After their lab experience, the Target students toured the high school and learned more about the Center for Advanced Studies in Math, Science and Technology Magnet program. A’niya Abdulsamad, a 4th grader planning to become an OB GYN, said, “I definitely want to apply for the Magnet school and play in the band.”