West Ferris students get primer on DNA

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It looked more like a scene out of sci-fi movie than a classroom.

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Grades 9 and 10 students in West Ferris Secondary School’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) program and Grades 11 and 12 biology students were treated to a lesson about extracting DNA from their own cheek cells.

But the usual teacher was replaced by Andy Liu, a student from McMaster University. Liu is part of the student ambassador event funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada.

The event is designed to promote natural sciences for under-represented groups in STEM, such as girls, Indigenous youth and youths in rural and remote areas.

Grade 9 student Ty Hall said it was fun to have a student teacher talk about DNA, as well as learn how DNA works and the different strands and bonds they create.

“I’ve seen videos of DNA being extracted, and actually in Grade 8 our teacher showed us DNA underneath a microscope.”

The 14-year-old said he took STEAM because of his love for science.

He said some of the academic science classes were too easy and he wanted more of a challenge.

“STEAM is a challenge, but it’s an enjoyable one.”

Liu said it’s that love for science that he hopes programs like this will help foster and enrich a student’s passion and encourage them to pursue a career in science, technology or engineering.

He said he grew up in a family of engineers and was lucky enough to be exposed to that environment.

“In middle and high school I took a lot of science and chemistry courses and I’ve been lucky to have some amazing teachers along the way that helped foster my interests.”

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