We have been working in two main activities to teach about Synthetic Biology to a wider audience.
We have made great accomplishments related to Science Communication of SynBio, in particular to students in secondary education. The virtualization of school activities in our country gave us the opportunity to design material according to the national curriculum in basic education for a Peruvian government platform called “Aprendo en Casa”. Furthermore, we have hosted a synchronous activity for students from high schools of many regions with feedback afterwards with teachers from their schools.
Our country has Science & Technology as a minor subject in the public discussion, and we made these activities with the goal that more presence of science initiatives in educational environments could make people aware of the importance of scientific innovation to address national problems.
NATIONAL television education
Since the beginning of the iGem season, we reached out to directives of the educational television program “Aprendo en Casa” (meaning: “Learning from home”) broadcasted at a national level. This program was created by the Ministry of Education in response to the problem of limited or null access to online classes many peruvian students have.
Our proposal was based on the generation of educational videos to teach Synthetic Biology and exemplifying its application with our project. The content from our videos was based on the national curricular program for highschool, covering three competences:
Investigate through scientific methods to build knowledge: We shared the activities that lead to the creation and development of our project following the scientific method: Observation → Problem statement → Hypothesis → Experimentation → Results.
Explain natural phenomenons: We explained the frost season phenomenon in depth, teaching its definition, its effects on plants on a macro and microscopic level, and its negative repercussions on society.
Design and construct technological solutions to solve problems. We explained the objective of the project, that is to develop an antifreeze product that reduces frost damage on crops.
Therefore, this proposal is truly valuable and contributes to the spread of knowledge related to science, biotechnology and synthetic biology to a wider audience. The directives accepted our proposal, congratulating our work by pointing out how good we explained the current local issue and how real and innovative the proposed solution is. Currently, we are still in touch with them to plan the last details for the emission of the videos on television, they are expected to be airing in December.
Educational event for highschool students
We organized an educational event about Synthetic Biology that had as an objective to awaken the curiosity and interest of the young for the sciences. It aimed at highschool students from the third and fifth year (ages ranging from 14 to 16) from all over Perú.
Every activity of the event was planned meticulously in order to have a significant aim in teaching Synbio. We planned many activities that encourage active participation from all students like showing them videos made by ourselves, using web simulators available for the general public, a live experiment that involved the homemade extraction of DNA and games to test their previous knowledge and what they learn during the event. Additionally, we planned to exemplify the application of Synbio explaining our project and the project from the team FDR-HB, with whom we collaborated.
Finally, we planned to transmit to them that science helps tackle real problems and that they can be generators of solutions, leaving the clear message that science is for everyone.
Since it was our first time conducting an educational event, we contacted our University Professor, Hugo Flores, specialist in science education and virtual teaching. He offered invaluable feedback related to the goals and duration of every activity. Also, he gave us recommendations about the guidance and possible inconvenients during the event. With this in mind, we were definitely more prepared and confident.
We were happy to see the great number of students that attended the event (approximately 70 people) and their active participation during the whole event, that lasted for about 2 hours, answering our questions and asking questions themselves. The students were really glad for the event and were asking if we were planning to organize a new one soon.
Furthermore, we were excited for the interest shown by the teachers to participate as observers. At the end of the event, we had a small conversatory with the attendant teachers in which they congratulated us for the good management of the event and for the initiative. Moreover, they told us that we gave them ideas and resources that will help them to explain scientific concepts.
Synbio teaching in Human work
As part of Human Practices, we have worked with members of the agricultural communities PiOc y Huasahuasi of the Peruvian department of Junin, one of the regions most affected by frosts. The activities carried out with this community allowed us to learn more about the problem and adapt the project to the direct needs of these farmers.
In turn, we gave them more details about our project using understandable language. Since only some farmers had access to the internet, we made phone calls and PowerPoint presentations at “Zoom” meetings, as appropriate. In these dialogues, we explained to them the key points of how we intend to solve the loss of crops, due to frosts, using synthetic biology. In a schematic way and with simple words, we described to them that we intend to obtain antifreeze proteins through the DNA cloning process. In addition, we mentioned that, to achieve this, we are using a marine bacteria (Pseudoalteromonas nigrifaciens) harmless to humans and the environment. We also updated them on some results obtained in the laboratory, such as the effective growth of P. nigrifaciens. Furthermore, we gave them the possibility to ask us questions and start a discussion regarding any aspect of the project, in this way we obtained important feedback and exchanged valuable information on how to tackle the problem.
At the end of the explanation of the project, we conducted surveys, previously approved by the ethics committee of our university, to find out the perspective they had on it. These surveys were carried out by phone calls or through “Google Forms”, depending on the internet access of each participant. The results of these surveys confirmed us that the dialogue established with the farmers was direct and clear.
MEDIA: We are on the news!
Different media platforms were also very interested in our project. This led us to even show up on national television!
Our leader was interviewed by the Science and Technology journalist, Diego Suarez Bosleman, for a Peruvian newspaper “El Comercio”. He was very interested in our project because it is an initiative of young Peruvian undergraduate students who have been working on a biotechnology-based solution for a problem barely addressed in our country. In the interview, we explain our project using simple language for the people to understand given that the newspaper readers are general public.
We show up on a national television channel “Latina” talking briefly about our project. The interest of the channel made us aware of the scope of our project and we would be able to show to the general public that there IS an effort to address the crop losses due to frosts.
We wrote an article for a Peruvian agricultural magazine “Agronoticias”, specialized in agriculture, cattle raising, forestation, environment and rural development topics. In the article, we explained our solution proposal, its expected development and the next steps for our project.
We were invited to talk about our project on a Peruvian radio channel called “Amauta” which broadcasts in the department of Ica.
We also were invited to talk about our project by the producer of a Peruvian radio channel “San Andrés”, which broadcasts in the department of Arequipa. She was very interested in our project because their listeners were farmers directly affected by frosts.
We kept constant communication with a representative of the National Scholarship and Educational Credit Program (PRONABEC) who was interested in our project on a national level.
Explaining our project
We presented our project on the web platform of Journal Club, which looks to promote scientific discussion and the empowering of students through the analysis of scientific papers and networking tools. Due to the wide audience of the platform, we explained, in a clear and precise way, the issue, its impact and the characteristics of our team’s proposed solution.
We also presented our project on the web platform of a science magazine called “Terra”. This a student-made peruvian magazine that spreads content of relevance in the academic setting. Our team was invited to present our project.
We recently presented our project on a scientific facebook channel of Topics of Genetic Engineering. This channel is from our university and we had the pleasure of being invited to present our project and to have our PI as a moderator.