The droso4schools project is a novel and creative approach to bring the fruit fly Drosophila back into biology lessons, based on the rationale that these little insects can be used as powerful, modern and engaging teaching tools:
- Fruit flies are currently the best understood animal organisms, ideal to explain the concepts behind many curriculum-relevant biology specifications and to illustrate the links between them.
- Fruit flies are cheap and easy to breed, ideal to bring animals into classrooms and make experimentation exciting and memorable.
- Fruit flies are actively used in contemporary research, making it easy to convey the relevance of taught contents.
The droso4schools project aims to inform teachers about these opportunities and help them implement fly-based lessons. A key prerequisite for successful implementation is to understand teachers’ needs and realities. Therefore, BBSRC-funded PhD students worked for several weeks as teaching assistants in schools. Based on these experiences, they developed biology sample lessons including Drosophila activities (see below). These lessons were tested in the schools and can now be downloaded for free together with adjoined support materials from our figshare site. These lessons do not stand alone, but there are further support materials:
- Read our SSR article about the project: Harbottle, J., Strangward, P., Alnuamaani, C., Lawes, S., Patel, S., Prokop, A. (2016). Making research fly in schools: Drosophila as a powerful modern tool for teaching Biology. School Science Review 97, 19-23 — [PDF]
- A recent blog provides an overview of all our school resources and the reasons for why Drosophila is so well suited for biology lessons;
- two short, entertaining, educational films were uploaded on YouTube;
- the “Why fly?” tab on this site provides additional info about Drosophila;
- the “Organs” tab on this site provides a comparison of human and fly organs;
- tabs at the top of this site (also linked within the lesson descriptions below), provide support information for our sample lessons which can be used for lesson preparation, homework tasks or revision;
- finally, the Manchester Fly Facility has put together additional Drosophila-related information useful for teachers, including lists of teaching & outreach resources as well as lay articles about fly research.
See our film describing the project with comments from teachers, interns, scientists and pupils actively involved in the project:
Overview of the biology school lessons generated so far
The climbing assay: Learning data analysis through live experiments with fruit flies
This lesson and adjunct materials can be downloaded from our figshare site as a zip file entitled “KS3-ClimbingAssay-package“. It is a simple, enjoyable practical for Key Stage 3 students. Students examine the relationship between ageing and mobility using Drosophila. Old and young flies are knocked to the bottom of their respective tubes in front of a climbing wall. After 15 seconds a picture is taken allowing students to score the respective mobility of each fly. Students plot these data whilst the teacher draws each student’s data into a custom-made Excel spreadsheet. Individual plots can then be compared to the plotted cumulative data, making the importance of statistics and sample size unmistakably clear.
This lesson develops’ students data analysis skills including their ability to appropriately organise experimental data into tables and graphs, interpret trends in data, and show a better understanding of the importance of statistics and sample size. The climbing assay is being actively utilised in contemporary research to understand the mechanisms of ageing and neurodegeneration. It therefore allows students to appreciate the fundamental importance of these skills for real-world research, and suitable explanations are provided in the lesson which also introduce to concepts of ageing and neurodegeneration. Under the “L1-Climbing Assay” tab, further online support materials explaining this experiment, its scientific backgrounds and providing support for statistics are available.
authors: Patrick Strangward (FLS), Catherine Alnuamaani (Trinity), Sanjai Patel (FLS), Andreas Prokop (FLS)
From gene to enzyme to evolution: using alcohol metabolism to illustrate fundamental concepts of biology and how they interlink
This lesson and adjunct materials can be downloaded from our figshare site as a zip file entitled “KS5-Genes&Alcohol-package“. It represents a synoptic resource that aims to consolidate and integrate curriculum-relevant concepts at Biology A Level (Key Stage 5), ideal for end-of-term revision lessons. It uses the theme of alcohol and alcohol tolerance to conceptually link and review the topics of fermentation, metabolism, enzymes, the genetic code and protein synthesis, genetic/allelic diversity and adaptation, natural selection and evolution, and even pharmacological concepts combined with classical conditioning.
The resource builds on active learning that promotes critical thinking and an appreciation of the scientific process of discovery. It is also brought to life with experiments and activities including a chemical reaction that demonstrates enzymatic activity in live tissues of normal versus enzyme-deficient maggots, a behavioural experiment demonstrating alcohol tolerance, and an activity reminding students of the genetic code, mutation and the principles of transcription and translation. The wide range of topics taught along one consistent story line highlights how different biology concepts integrate, making the complex nature of biology more transparent for students. This lesson therefore inspires enthusiasm in the subject, and encourages students to pursue future studies and a career in science. Under the “L2-Alcohol” tab, further online support materials explaining the experiments, activities and scientific backgrounds are available.
authors: Jennifer Harbottle (RINH), Surita Lawes (Loreto), Sanjai Patel (FLS), Andreas Prokop (FLS)
Principles of neuronal wiring
This lesson will soon be available, but some of its content can already be seen under th “L3-Neurons” tab.
The rules of inheritance: from chromosomes to genes to disease: Using flies to illustrate the principles
This lesson will soon be available