Thanks to Ohio Soybean Council’s Ag Biotech workshop, students at Cincinnati’s Virtual High School were able to simulate the identification of traits through electrophoresis. Teacher George Bens prefaced this activity in his online biology class with a discussion of the different types of trait selection available in the 21st century.

At Virtual High School, students work independently and at their own pace in a variety of science courses. Nearly all of their “lab” experiences are interactive online activities. This activity fit with the second semester Biology study of the replication processes of DNA needed for protein synthesis. The culminating section of the unit presents gel electrophoresis as a criminal forensic activity.

When a student reached the second unit, Bens held a discussion on the importance of selecting favorable traits in agriculture, using soybeans as an example. As the student progressed through the unit, soybean traits were incorporated into the preparatory information leading to the gel electrophoresis demonstration. Bens was able to work with individual students to run the gel electrophoresis lab.

Bens said his students were enthralled with the lab. “Each said that they felt like they were doing real, contemporary science.” Several students were able to extend the idea of selective breeding to genetic engineering of crop plants like soybeans to improve its usefulness.

Each student completed a pretest of the concepts and vocabulary for the unit, and the unit test was used as the posttest. The resulting scores showed significant average improvement: students from this year completing the activity scored 16% higher than students from the previous year taking the same end-of-unit test.

Bens said, “The flexibility of the lessons and materials made it possible to connect directly with a student’s level of understanding. They also provided leeway for a class schedule and room arrangement that is not typical for high school science labs. My students were able to follow the well-written instructions with very little additional clarification. This was particularly helpful for an online classroom environment. Being able to integrate agriculture and science at an inner city school was made possible by the training, experience, and materials provided by the Ag Biotech Academy and their sponsors and supporters.”