Husson University's School of Pharmacy Helps Local Area High Schools Use LEGOs to Teach DNA Structure to Students

Date of Release: October 18, 2011

The Husson University School of Pharmacy is assisting local area high school teachers in instructing their advanced placement students and biology students about DNA using LEGOs. Hampden Academy Alternative Education Teacher Kai Ksyniak will hold the first lesson with her students on Thursday, October 20th.

Dr. Kathy VanDiver, the inventor of the LEGO technique and outreach director for MIT's Center for Environmental Health Sciences, led a workshop along with second-year student Jonathan Anderson last week at Husson University for teachers interested in applying it in their classrooms. Dr. VanDiver developed the program when she was a middle school teacher and became frustrated with the way DNA synthesis and protein formation was being instructed. The technique has been well received and was recently launched in the Boston Public School system. Dr. VanDiver has instructed similar workshops for nurses and astronauts from NASA.

"Using this technique will provide our students with an incredibly unique hands-on learning experience. I think it will clearly illustrate the process of protein synthesis in a way that totally engages the students by allowing them to actually physically construct molecules. The fact that we are mimicking what happens on a cellular level with a real disease makes it very relevant for students," stated Ksyniak.

Second-year student Jonathan Anderson will bring the materials to the class and assist Ksyniak with the lecture. The protein structure the students will be studying with the LEGOs is related to cystic fibrosis. Students who are not enrolled in the classes have expressed interest in attending to gain a better understanding of the disease.

"Assisting Hampden Academy and other local area high schools incorporate this valuable learning technique provides us with a great way to serve our community," states Dr. Roger Phipps, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Husson. "It is also an opportunity for students like Jonathan [Anderson] to expand their educational experience while enrolled in our Pharmacy program."

Richard Balentine, an Advanced Placement Biology/Biology Teacher will also use the LEGO technique with his classes later in the fall semester.

For questions, please contact Amanda Kitchen at 207-992-4925, via email at kitchena@husson.edu , or via cell at 207-649-4647.

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