Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Thursday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Thursday

Today was an exciting day for the students! They were able to see how environment did influence gene expression in identical E. coli plated on different types of media. Some of the E. coli expressed the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) while others did not. Students also created experiments to test effects of anti-epileptic drug s (AEDs) on the flies. Tomorrow the students will be discussing and presenting what they have been researching throughout the week!

Ask your student: What is the difference between genotype and phenotype? (Genotype is based on the DNA sequence for a trait, phenotype is the expression or appearance of the trait)

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Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Wednesday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Wednesday

Today students began the process to transform ‘normal’ E. coli bacteria (that do not produce green fluorescent protein (GFP)) into bacteria that do produce GFP. The students constructed plasmids and created plates with different E. Coli strains, and on Thursday will identify on which trains transformation was successful.

Ask your student: What is transformation? (A lab technique is used to introduce foreign/new genetic material into an organism)

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Tuesday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Tuesday

Students began their days by learning how to handle and anesthetize fruit flies, then identified characteristics on those flies – eye color, wing shape, etc. After comparing their data with the class, the students generated different fly behaviors to test. The students looked at the genetics and behavioral phenotype concept with gene-environment effects to discuss outcomes of these possible interactions in preparation for experiments later in the week!

Ask your student: What are some ways the environment can affect behavior? (Altering gene expression and therefore behavior, cause learning and thus alter gene expression, have no effect purely genetically based behavior)

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This Monday in… Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

This Monday in… Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

Today in Genetics: Nature or Nurture, the students extracted their own DNA with the goal of identifying whether or not their DNA contained the PTC gene. The gene reveals whether or not the campers can taste bitter (PTC) or not! Once the campers had their DNA, they prepared it for a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) experiment to then amplify the gene and eventually reveal whether or not the gene was present.

Ask your student: What are polytene chromosomes?  (The ‘giant’ chromosomes found in the salivary glands of drosophila larva that are result from several rounds of DNA replication without cell division)

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Integrated Science – Thursday

Integrated Science – Thursday

This afternoon the Integrated Science students were visited by Melissa Lenczewski, a professor of Geomicrobiology at Northern Illinois University, along with two of her research students. Professor Lenczewski and her students shared their recent research on groundwater in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Their research focus was how tourism impacts the area drinking water when chemical residues seep through the grounds after people swim in popular water-filled pits, called cenotes. After the presentation students participated in two hands-on activities. They practiced filling and flipping Whirl-Pak laboratory sample bags, and then looked at bacteria on their fingers under a UV light box to see how well they washed their hands!


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Micro STEM @ Aurora – Wednesday: Ionic Compounds

Micro STEM @ Aurora – Wednesday: Ionic Compounds

Today, in Micro STEM, the students built upon their knowledge of atoms and ions as they used their own bodies to represent atoms and ions that bond to form ionic compounds. The students played a game where they were challenged to find a partner “match” to create an ionic compound with a net charge of zero. Also, today in Micro STEM, the students built simple ionic compounds and then created crystalline structures with the whole class.

Ask your student:

To create a neutral ionic compound with a Sodium ion (+1 charge), what charge would the other ion have to be? (-1 charge)

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Integrated Science – Wednesday

Integrated Science – Wednesday

On Wednesday students in the Integrated Science program expanded their understandings of water by incorporating the concept of carbon. In the morning they dove into photosynthesis – how plants convert light energy into “food” – first by reviewing the basics in a classroom mini-lecture, and then by performing an experiment in the lab. They removed all the gas from pieces of spinach, dropped them in various solutions, and viewed them under different colored light conditions to see if they floated as they released gas while photosynthesizing. Throughout the rest of the day students continued focusing on how carbon factors in to our understanding of water, especially in terms of metabolism in biological organisms.

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Integrated Science – Tuesday

Integrated Science – Tuesday

Today students in the Integrated Science Residential Program continued their exploration of the properties and possibilities of water. In the morning, students began investigating current topics in water, ecosystems, and conservation for their week-long research projects. They also were introduced to osmosis: the movement of water through a membrane. In the afternoon, students applied that knowledge to a real-world scenario by emulating Red Cross workers in a dialysis-simulation lab. They soaked semipermeable tubes of mystery “dialysis solution” in “blood” – water dyed with red food coloring – and measured changes in mass and color between the different tubes. Kidneys clean waste products from your blood, of course, as part of the job of maintaining a delicate balance of water in the body, and Dr. Randall discussed with students how these processes in the human body mirror the cycling of water through ecosystems.


Integrated Science – Monday

Integrated Science – Monday

Today was the first day of the Integrated Science Residential Program. In the morning, the students explored polarity in a lab setting. They determined if 6 different solutions were polar or nonpolar by seeing if the solution was attracted to a charged rod. They created posters with their conclusions, and created posters about the field of science.  Then the students ate lunch and tie-dyed name tags. After lunch, they began to research their topic for their week-long project on water and ecosystems. Finally, they did a lab to compare dissolving and reacting by combining different solutions in test tubes and recording their observations.

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Extreme Math & Science Friday: Foraging

Extreme Math & Science Friday: Foraging

Today in Extreme Math and Science, the students created a fitness modeling using excel, dice, and a dragonfly model. The students played a game simulating the life of a dragonfly and made decisions about foraging, mates and risk.  Based on their findings, the students then analyzed any errors they may have made and whether those errors were statistically significant.

Ask your student: What is foraging? (Foraging is searching for wild food resources. It affects an animal’s fitness because it plays an important role in an animal’s ability to survive and reproduce.)

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