In response to the multitude of ideas posed by freshmen, biology teachers created the Arabidopsis Fair, a science expo exclusively for Honors Biology students.
According to Biology and Environmental Systems teacher Barbara Brown, freshmen “just didn’t have the preparation” to participate in science fair, so the faculty decided to use the Arabidopsis Fair “so that it would be easier for us to help the kids.”
Every year Honors Biology freshmen cultivate mutant and wild type variations of Arabidopsis under different stressors.
The supplies for this experiment are provided by Virginia Tech, which collects that data from the students to help their own research facilities determine the roles of the genes removed from the mutant types.
“I learned valuable science skills,” freshman Dylan Murphy said.
Brown said that the Arabidopsis Fair would allow biology teachers to focus on students’ data collection techniques.
“It just seemed like a better way to scaffold the whole research experience,” Brown said.
Teachers, parents and older students with science backgrounds were asked to come and judge the Arabidopsis projects.
Parent Maria Dastgheib, who has a masters in environmental sciences and a bachelors in medical technology, was invited to be one of the judges. Dastgheib thought that the students did better than in previous years and attributed the improvement to the group effort and the longer experimentation period.
“They got to see the framework of the experiment,” she said. Dastgheib said students were disadvantaged at science fair in previous years because they had no experience.
“It really teaches [the students] the importance of this long-term commitment to collecting data,” Brown said. “It’s real science that’s why I think it’s a really valuable experience.”