Placement week equips teachers to translate lab life to the classroom
Two secondary school teachers, Iona Martin, Head of Biology at Colchester County High School for Girls, and Cecile Roquain, Head of Biology at St Charles College, London, have spent a busy half-term week getting to grips with the latest research and technologies at the Institute. The placement is part of the Teachers Industrial Partners’ Scheme supported by the Biochemical Society and the National Science Learning Network.
Cecile, who previously worked in Alzheimer’s disease research before training to be a teacher, said: “My aim in participating in the placement scheme was to extend my understanding of what is happening in life science research today, especially in terms of technologies and methods that are revolutionising research. I was sure that this experience would also allow me to communicate the career possibilities available in scientific research and associated fields to my students.”
Iona, who prior to teaching was a molecular microbiologist and clinical scientist, said: “I applied to broaden my biological subject knowledge and appreciate the many advances in technology. The knowledge I’ve gained this week will be used to update my teaching, providing new ways to engage and enthuse my students, and to provide better STEM career advice. I’ll soon be tackling the extensive list of reading materials and exploring various online resources that have been recommended to me during the week.”
The placement week introduced Iona and Cecile to a broad range of research being undertaken at the Institute, including epigenetics, cell signalling, immunology and genome packaging as well as techniques in imaging, flow cytometry and bioinformatics. Iona and Cecile also undertook a virtual tour of the Institute’s animal facility to hear about how animals are used in research and learn more about animal welfare within the unit. In addition to being exposed to the Institute’s research, Iona and Cecile also experienced non-research components to do with the operation of the Institute as a whole: public engagement, knowledge exchange, communications, research funding and gender balance.
Reflecting on the week, Cecile commented: “The research I’ve witnessed and experienced this week links extremely well with the A-level Biology syllabus which provides a great opportunity to stretch and challenge students. As a result of this experience, I will be able to bring current research into the classroom. This will certainly add a new dimension to my teaching, by allowing me to incorporate real-life examples to bring the topic I’m teaching to life.”
Iona continued: “I’m very grateful to all the individuals who gave up their time to host us this week. The week has made me more aware of the huge advances and pace of change. With the updated GCSE and A-level syllabi I’ll be able to incorporate many aspects directly into my teaching. Several researchers have already committed to visiting my school to talk about their research to students so the links made this week are invaluable.”
Following the week’s placement, the developing relationship between the Institute, Cecile, Iona and their respective schools will continue. Six students from each school will attend the Schools Day on 2nd March this year.
Dr Tacita Nye, Public Engagement Manager at the Institute, said: We were delighted to offer teacher placements as part of the TIPS scheme. It’s been a pleasure to host Cecile and Iona and to see their enthusiasm as they absorbed an enormous amount of new knowledge! It’s especially gratifying to know that there will be direct impacts on their teaching, more or less as soon as they return to school next week! We look forward to continuing our relationship with the respective schools and welcoming students to our annual Schools Day on 2nd March.”
Schools’ Day gives students a taste of life in the lab – 2015 write-up