Professional lab setting inspires AP biologists

Professional lab setting inspires AP biologists

Global climate change, pollution, dwindling resources… a host of environmental issues are looming. Who’s going to solve these problems? We’re betting on some of today’s science students who will be tomorrow’s scientists.

One group of advanced science students recently had the opportunity to work in the professional lab housed at the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center. Students in Jessica Brace’s Advanced Placement (AP) biology class at Collins Hill High conducted three lab experiments in a full-day session in the Center’s facilities.

“I think this experience was invaluable to the students,” says Ms. Brace. “They all felt very adult, scientific, and productive while working in this lab setting.” She says the experience gave the students a taste of the type of lab experience they might have in a college lab or in the workplace and may inspire some to pursue science as a career.

In the three labs, the students explored the effects of temperature and dormancy on cellular respiration, gauged the impact of light and enzymes on photosynthesis, and measured the amount of dissolved oxygen in various water samples to assess the health of a water system. Time and space for complicated labs are hard to come by in a regular school day with 55-minute periods, according to Ms. Brace. Each of the three hands-on labs conducted at the GEHC facility took 90-minutes or more to complete. The labs also required extensive planning and set-up, which is handled by Holly Rutledge, who develops middle and high school programs as secondary grades lead teacher for the Center.

In fact, the Center’s programming is designed to extend the world-class science instruction found in Gwinnett classrooms at all levels by offering experiences that may be difficult to offer in the classroom due to time constraints or specialized equipment. Grade-appropriate tours and field studies, and labs like the ones conducted by the AP biology students, are supplemental learning opportunities for Gwinnett science students who visit the Center. All programming is tied to GCPS’ Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum.

“The Center’s world-class programming provides students with exceptional science experiences that are representative of current science-based issues,” says Ms. Rutledge. “The labs and field studies really promote interest in solving both local and global environmental problems for this generation of rising young scientists.”

Asked to describe their lab experience, the students were enthusiastic: “It was inspiring to work in a more professional environment,” said one student. “Our AP Biology field trip was great! A whole day of Biology… who wouldn’t love it!” said another. Two students summed it up in one fanciful word, “Biotastic!”

Note: AP classes are rigorous, college-level classes offered in high schools. Students who take national AP exams at the end of the course can earn college credit for high scores.Click here for more on Advanced Placement in Gwinnett high schools.