The corn industry has made major advances in the last thirty years. Many of these advancements have come on the heels of an increased incorporation of biotechnology into the seed development sector. Since 1996, when the first herbicide resistant varieties were brought into production, many of the most important advancements have developed thanks to countless hours spent in laboratories developing and cultivating new varieties. The skills we need to develop in the next generations of these scientists must be discretely taught. There is no better way to do that than through hands-on laboratory experiences. Simply put, there is no substitution for putting the tools in the hands of the learner. In this investigation, students will have an opportunity to develop skills relative to volumetric measurement on a very small scale. Students will be using adjustable volumetric pipettes to accurately measure small amounts of liquids, as precisely as possible, using authentic tools that can be found in 21st century labs across the country and the world. Students will also see a cross over between the development of lab skills and the art of lab work by precisely depositing specific volumes in order to create patterns or pictures of their own design.
Be aware of students with sensitivity to certain artificial dyes. Using food grade dyes (liquid food coloring) or school sets of 8 color water colors eliminates most safety concerns
Length of Time for Preparation: 10 min
Length of Time for Classroom Teaching: 30-45 minutes or longer depending on your preference
Part 1: Overall Pipette Function, Volume Selection and Use
During these activities students will have developed some basic laboratory skills that will allow them to experience, on a very cursory level, the act of doing science. Allowing students to show some voice and choice in their chosen pattern in Part 2 also increases the likelihood of student participation. Some students don’t strive for a science or agriculture related career because they feel like they don’t have the ability. This lesson allows them to see how some simple techniques will allow them to become marketable in the biotech field, as well as other types of labs around the country and the world.
Have students show you as they go through the process of depositing two samples of different volumes, combining samples, and changing the volume of the pipette to withdraw the whole combined sample with one sample draw, as outlined in Part 1. This shows proper technique and is one step closer to using them in an actual lab setting.
Biotechnology and agriculture have been working hand in hand since humans started domesticating plants and animals. Humans have worked towards creating and finding specific breeds and lines of organisms in order to reach the ultimate goal of meeting the growing needs of humanity. In the 21st century, lab work and skills are very much a part of that solution. Jobs in fields such as biofuel development, food safety and product development, micro plant propagation, seed development, molecular biology, pathology, biochemistry, geneticists, entomologists, agronomists, and many others will be the key to the future of agriculture. Agriculture needs highly skilled individuals, with solid backgrounds in laboratory practices and practical work, if they are going to fill the positions that are needed to solve the problems of producing and protecting our resources and ourselves.
Any educator electing to perform demonstrations is expected to follow NSTA Minimum Safety Practices and Regulations for Demonstrations, Experiments, and Workshops, which are available at http://static.nsta.org/pdfs/MinimumSafetyPracticesAndRegulations.pdf, as well as all school policies and rules and all state and federal laws, regulations, codes and professional standards. Educators are responsible for abiding appropriate legal standards and better professional practices under a duty of care to make laboratories and demonstrations in and out of the classroom as safe as possible. If in doubt, do not perform the demonstrations.
Investing in teachers is a priority therefore the Kansas Corn Commission is committed to providing materials and training to help teachers excel in the classroom. Teachers who seek to expand their knowledge and skill of connecting science with agriculture are encouraged to attend a Seed to STEM workshop.