Ag Biotech Academy 2020: your kitchen, your lab

“Our goal is to inspire you in your teaching, provide great resources, and help you in the classroom.” With a greeting from Tom Fontana, Ohio Soybean Council Director of Research and Education, the annual Ag Biotech Academy workshop was underway. Sponsored by the Ohio Soybean Council and Pioneer, this year’s event featured three familiar presenters in a virtual setting, sharing lessons and ways to adjust them for distance learning. A box of supplies, sent out ahead of time, allowed participants to follow along with some great lab activities from their kitchens.

Rachel Sanders presented Make biodiesel at home, an adapted version of a free lesson on our website. Participants used two samples of oil, one soybean and another of their choice, to make biodiesel, then “wash” it to separate biodiesel from a soap/glycerin byproduct. The final step was to test the biodiesel product with a flame test and in pop pop boats.

After an introduction about biotechnology and its applications, Pam Snyder demonstrated modeling DNA using body parts and simulating genetic engineering with a paper model. Participants used food dyes obtained from Skittles’ coatings with gel electrophoresis, using dyes to simulate a GMO detection activity.

Biotech is also a part of food science! Teachers soaked soybeans, then blended and strained them to make soy milk, which they then tested for protein. This soy milk was used for ice cream in a bag, with math involved in molarity, molarity, and freezing point depression calculations. Presenter Jennifer Foudray encouraged presenters with the idea that “Students are more cheerful doing math while eating ice cream!”

Jill Curliss is a biology teacher at Waynesville High School. She said her students would find the activities fun and engaging, and she appreciated that “they fit with content I have to cover for the test.”

Workshop facilitator Jane Hunt gave a virtual tour of the GrowNextGen website, pointing out the many useful resources available. Allyssa Mullett, River View High School, said “The e-learning courses are great for the challenges that we are facing with virtual classrooms. They make it easy to do flipped classrooms. I have students take a screenshot of the pre- and post-test scores.”

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