Why can’t some people stand Brussels sprouts, yet others seem to quite enjoy them? That’s the question that young scientists at the Eden Project are to investigate in schools workshops, by testing their DNA for a special gene.
The A-level students will be conducting experiments as part of a national programme by the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) and supported by the Wellcome Trust, which aims to give young people hands-on experience with DNA.
They’ll be exploring the fact that sprouts contain a chemical which tastes bitter to people who have a variation of a certain gene. Those with a mutation on that gene don’t taste the bitterness. Around half of the world’s population have the mutation, which scientists consider beneficial, since people with it are more likely to enjoy eating sprouts, which are high in vitamin C and iron.
Students in school workshops at Eden will extract their own DNA with a cheek swab and amplify it using Polymerase Chain Reaction (a process that makes many copies of a small piece of DNA giving enough to test for the gene). They will see how evolution works at first hand, with practical experience of DNA techniques used in hospitals, forensic services and research laboratories.
These Hands-on DNA workshops are being run by 15 science and discovery centres and museums across the UK, each acting as a specialist hub for schools in their region.
John Ellison, Head of Education Strategy at Eden Project, said: “We are excited to work with Cornwall Learning, Cornwall College and our national partners to offer this DNA technology resource. It can give South West students hands-on experience of cutting edge bioscience techniques in the inspiring setting of the Eden Project.”
School workshops and teacher training
There are still some spaces left at Eden for A-Level and technician students 16-years-old and over on A Question of Taste workshops running March 5 to 9. Eden is currently fully booked for Hands-on DNA Key Stage 4 workshops in Science Week. Bookings can be made through email@example.com or 01726 811913 for further bookings after March 2012.
Teachers and technicians can also book with Cornwall Learning for a professional development placement day, on 13 January 13, 2012, which covers both workshops (A Question of Taste and Hands on DNA).