This guest blog post was shared by award winning STEM educator from Escanaba, Michigan, Matt Oney. We are proud to work with Matt on his mission to help his fellow teachers advance their lab knowledge and bring real-world skills and concepts to their students. Thanks to Matt for all his hard work and for taking the time to write this wonderful post on his MiniOne experience.
Prior to becoming a high school teacher, I spent six years in a lab studying the molecular genetics of plant pathogen interactions. I have often said that I didn’t truly understand science until it was my job. When I made the transition from higher education academia to secondary education, I was surprised to see that many secondary science teachers have little to no laboratory experience.
In February 2019 I was awarded a Bay de Noc Community College Innovation Grant in the amount of $5,000 that I coupled with a Michigan Department of Education Innovative Educator Corps Grant that I was awarded in January 2019 to develop and facilitate a secondary science molecular biology workshop to be held at Bay College this summer for area teachers.
After being awarded these grants, I traveled to the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) annual conference to see if I could find a vendor to partner with in this endeavor. I was so fortunate to meet Richard Chan of MiniOne at the conference, at which time we began to “geek out” on the possible collaboration. I had previously heard of the MiniOne brand and explored their website, but was wary of it, because I’ve never used it before in a lab or a classroom. However, the price of the products, the developed labs and apparent ease of use appealed to me. In collaboration with Richard and Erika Fong, also with MiniOne, I decided on four labs that the attending teachers would perform during my workshop; the Gel Loading Practice MiniLab, the Colorful Dye Electrophoresis MiniLab, the PCR 101 and Gel Electrophoresis MiniLab, and the Taste of Genetics MiniLab.
To prepare for the workshop, I ordered all of the labs a month ahead of time to make sure that all of the labs worked and to develop my workshop outline. Any trepidations that I may have had going into this were quickly dispelled, as all of the labs worked flawlessly. Not only that, but the ease of use of the thermal cycler and the gel electrophoresis were astounding. I went into my workshop confident that I would be able to introduce the attending teachers to the amazing world of molecular biology and that I didn’t have to worry about experiments not working.
There are too many amazing comments that my teachers made in regard to the MiniOne system, but a few in particular stood out to me. One teacher was so excited about the MiniOne GelCups, as she told a story of how she had to be taken to the emergency room last year after burning herself with molten agarose. Another teacher was so happy that the MiniOne design was so fool proof in assembly, as the gel electrophoresis system will only work if the student has put it together correctly.
In addition to the fabulous technology that MiniOne has developed, the curricular resources that are available for each investigation are a great resource for teachers. The prelab questions, scaffolding of data analysis, and subsequent post lab questions provide students with a clear direction in understanding the underlying content of the lab.
To determine the impact of my workshop on the teachers, I performed a pre and post survey that asked them various questions regarding their confidence in using molecular biology tools and developing curriculum related to molecular biology. The below figures demonstrate that the teachers own perceived abilities to develop and execute lessons increased dramatically from this experience. In addition, their own perceived abilities to use molecular biology techniques also increased dramatically. As one of the teachers noted, “I found (the workshop) very interesting and I believe my students would find the molecular biology interesting as well.”
(Click the images below to see the results of the survey)
From my first encounter with Richard at MSTA to the completion of the workshop, I can fully endorse the MiniOne technology and curricular resources. I am excited to continue gathering feedback from the teachers and hope to continue to work with them and MiniOne in continuing to expose more students to the wonders of molecular biology.