Engaging Teenagers with Genetics and Genomics through a School-based Competition: Pilot Evaluation

By Emma Weitkamp and Dawn Arnold.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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As part of a university outreach programme, the authors ran an interschool competition encouraging young people (year 10, age 14–15) to explore their ideas about the likely social impacts of whole genome screening. Schools participating in the competition selected teams of 4–5 young people who participated in a one day workshop. This workshop provided an introduction to whole genome screening, what it is and what it might (and might not) be able to tell us about our future health. The workshop also included sessions on communicating scientific ideas through film (e.g. storyboarding and basic editing). Students were then instructed to create a 4–6 minute film about genomics and what issues it might present for individuals and/or society. Students reconvened for a second workshop to view and discuss the films created. This paper focuses on a thematic analysis of the films entered in the competition, exploring the issues that students raise. In addition to the thematic analysis, quantitative and qualitative data were collected that enable a preliminary exploration of student learning. This will be explored in the context of what students of this age already know and how they have built upon this learning during the competition.

Keywords: University Outreach, Genomics, School-based Competition, Evaluation

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.63-68. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 361.254KB).

Dr. Emma Weitkamp

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Applied Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, Bristol, UK

Emma Weitkamp is a lecturer and practitioner in science communication. As well as contributing to the MSc in Science Communication offered by the University of the West of England, Bristol, Emma has run several projects that explore the intersection of scinece and society with young people. These include the EPSRC funded ScienceComics.uwe.ac.uk project, a web-based resource for primary school students and teachers that comprises comics, teaching resources and games about materials science; and It’s My Baby, a Wellcome Trust funded project exploring drama-based workshops as a tool for engaging secondary school pupils with issues around genetic testing.

Dr. Dawn Arnold

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Applied Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, Bristol, UK

Dawn Arnold (UWE, Bristol) is a Professor in Molecular Plant Pathology with over 18 years experience working with the bacterial plant pathogens P. syringae pathovars pisi and phaseolicola and their interaction with their host plants pea and bean. This work involves molecular genetic characterisation of the genes involved in the pathogenicity process towards plants and also how the bacteria can evolve to overcome host resistance.