Friday, March 28, 2014 - 16:00

More than 70 pupils from schools across Cornwall came to the Eden Project during National Science and Engineering Week to discover some of the secrets of DNA.

The Sherlock Streptococcus workshops brought molecular biology to life for the students from Sir James Smith’s Community School, Camelford, Launceston College and Newquay Tretherras School.

The Eden Project is a partner in the national Hands-on DNA project, created by the ASDC (UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres) and supported by Wellcome.

Students analysed a species of bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes through the use of a restriction enzyme digest followed by a process known as gel electrophoresis.

This bacteria occurs in excess of 200 different strains. Identifying the strain of this bacteria that a patient has contracted is highly important because some strains cause relatively mild diseases such as impetigo while others are responsible for diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis which can be fatal.

Among those taking part on Thursday were 24 Year 10s from Newquay Tretherras.  One, Karriad Shawcross, said: “I’m thinking of taking science at A Level and at university. This has been such an interesting day – I’ve learned a lot about DNA and pathology. It has been good to use different equipment in an environment like Eden.”

Their science teacher Jenny Ellis-Davis said: “We wanted to get all our science pupils out and about for Science Week to do some related activity. Today has been very relevant to what they are doing and a brilliant lead-in to their Year 11 work which they are starting soon.”

In total the Eden Project has now engaged more than 600 Key Stage 4 students in the Hands-on DNA workshops, approximately half of whom were girls. Most participants attend schools in Cornwall.

The three-hour sessions were led by Robbie Kirkman and Jo Ward of the Eden education team. Robbie said: “This workshop represents a great opportunity for students to gain first-hand, practical experience of high-tech molecular techniques and has been extremely well received by teachers and students alike.

“We have successfully engaged our audience by offering something unique that was previously unavailable in Cornwall. Initially this project was partly funded by the ASDC who provided expertise, training and the equipment. However, Eden has now embedded the workshop into its offer for schools and has since developed the workshop from its original form.

“The vast majority of participants in the project feel that it increases their interest in science and careers in science and gives them an opportunity to use equipment that they have never used before as well.”

A school trip to the Eden Project offers exciting learning opportunities for pupils, with the choice of a specially designed workshop with the Education team or a teacher-led visit. Eden welcomes groups from foundation stage right up to A level.

With over one million plants and iconic architecture and art, plus a purpose-built education centre, Eden is the ideal destination for school trips. More than 50,000 students of all ages visit the 'living classroom' every year from across the UK and Europe.