Reaching out and drawing in: telling teachers about our trade

Over the past few years, we’ve had many requests from learners for job shadowing at our laboratory. We did however notice that it was only learners from the same schools who contacted us, and we realised that more awareness about genetics as a career choice, specifically in agriculture, had to be created. With the help of the DIPLOMICS network and in collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department, we designed a workshop aimed at empowering teachers to inspire learners to pursue careers in this field.

On the 2nd and 3rd of June 2021, we hosted the first geneTeachers Workshop, which was attended by ten grade 10 to 12 Life Sciences teachers from ten different high schools in the Breede Rivier Valley Schools District. The workshop comprised of a theoretical and a practical session. Shannon Derman led the theoretical session during which the teachers were guided through the more challenging genetics concepts within the grade 10 to 12 syllabus. This session also show-cased the real-life applications of the curriculum that they are teaching to their students, and aimed to expose the educators to the type of agricultural genetics job opportunities that are sitting on their doorstep in the Western Cape. Under the watchful eyes of Alana Crotz, Debbie Snyman and Benny Leriba, the teachers were given practical experience as to what it is like working in a plant molecular biology laboratory. They were guided through a protocol to extract DNA from wheat which was met with great enthusiasm and awe. Take-home teaching material was given to the teachers to help them explain the more challenging aspects of the syllabus to their students, such as Punnett squares.

It is CenGen’s hope that the teachers return to their schools and use this background knowledge to motivate their students to understand and actively pursue genetics in the future. The overwhelming positive feedback from both the WCED as well as the teachers themselves shows the relevance and beneficial impact of the workshop.

We would like to thank DIPLOMICS for their support and the WCED for their enthusiasm and getting on board with this venture. It created learning opportunities not only for the teachers, but also for the CenGen team regarding the challenges teachers and the education system as a whole face. We would love to build on this workshop and extend it to more schools, thereby reaching the scientists of tomorrow.

Also check out a video made of the workshop on our YouTube channel!

Shannon Derman (left) and Ms Lucia Olivier, Life Sciences Subject Adviser for the Cape Winelands Education District. She was instrumental in getting the schools on board. Thank you Lucy!