Promoting In-Depth Human Health Exploration Through Guided Individual Projects Utilizing Genomic Sequencing Technologies (Lead PIs: Matthew Leader and Danjuma Quarless)

Promoting In-Depth Human Health Exploration Through Guided Individual Projects Utilizing Genomic Sequencing Technologies
Students Reached:  72 eleventh grade students, 150 ninth grade students
Lead Researchers: Dr. Nicholas Schork, J. Craig Venter Institute, and Mr. Danjuma Quarless, UC San Diego
Lead Teacher: Mr. Matthew Leader, High Tech High North County

Students in Mr. Matthew Leader’s class at the project based charter school High Tech High North County in San Marcos, California, performed a variety of experiments as part of a year-long, comprehensive project led by Mr. Danjuma Quarless, of the University of California San Diego, and his graduate advisor, Dr. Nichols Schork of the J. Craig Venter Institute. These three program leaders met as members of the San Diego Socrates Fellowship, which is an NSF supported program aimed to encourage collaboration between K-12 teachers and scientists. ASBMB HOPES funding was critical in maintaining the partnership between Mr. Quarless and Mr. Leader. This program aimed to help students better understand the genetics behind the four complex genetic diseases that are most likely to affect any student in their lifetime; cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders. The program aligned with the eleventh-grade students health-based curriculum and education program disseminated over a semester.

Mr. Quarless taught a series of lessons about genomics and taught students how to perform the techniques key to computational biology and molecular biology, including DNA extraction and barcoding, and Mr. Leader incorporated these lessons into his curriculum and facilitated the commission of art pieces from scientists studying these diseases. Students also painted “Pieces of Me” portraits to connect their scientific knowledge with art. Mr. Leader assisted in the preparation of materials for ninth-grade students that cover various diseases, disease states, and principles of disease prevention. Dr. Alec Patton, a humanities teacher at High Tech High North County, worked with Mr. Leader to translate these efforts into workshops and artistic critiques that the students self-published in a book titled “In Sickness and in Health.”

Additionally, students maintained notebooks throughout the project to document the concepts behind performed experiments and their participation in health-based lessons. These notebooks were inspected by Mr. Quarless and Mr. Leader each week. They also presented their work to the community at a science fair at the end of the year and in write-ups that were included in the book “In Sickness and in Health.” Student reviews were very positive, and a number noted that they are adopting healthier lifestyles after learning about the ways we can reduce our risk of disease.

72 eleventh-grade students fully participated in this program, and 150 ninth-grade students benefitted from course material created with the support of ASBMB HOPES funding. Of the 72 eleventh-graders, approximately 40% were from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM and 30% came from low-income households.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase materials for the classroom and for the experiments, including DNA extraction reagents, computer hardware, animal dissection specimens and a microcentrifuge. The microcentrifuge enables Mr. Quarless and Mr. Leader to lead this program more easily in the future.

QuarlessLeader_1  QuarlessLeader_2

Left: Students working on their interdisciplinary art pieces
Right: Group piece related to the cardiovascular disease material