In the last two weeks of October, our grade 11 students had the opportunity to work for 3 days atf the Youth BioLab at the St Boniface Research Centre, located at St. Boniface Hospital. It is a real research lab where scientists are studying many cures for diseases. Student groups are invited in to create an experiment on their own, test it and reflect on the process. These experiments are done on stem cells to simulate what the effects would be on a whole organism. 

On the first of our three days, students learned about stem cells and how they are very important cells in our body. Our goal was to develop an experiment that would study the effects of vaping on stem cells. 

Our first job was to harvest some stem cells. This happened through the dissection of a rat leg where students extracted the stem cells from the bone marrow of the femur and tibia/fibia. Once the cells were harvested we need to place them into culture dishes, feed them and put them into an incubator. There our cells grew over the weekend. 

On the second day at the lab, our cells had grown into large clusters which we viewed under the microscope and took pictures of. Then it was time to decide how we were going to inject the cells with the vape juice. This required students to do some serious calculations in order to figure out how much of the juice they should put in their cells. Once the calculations were complete it was time to inject. Using an apparatus that acted like a real pair of lungs inhaling vape smoke, we were able to get vape smoke bubbled into a solution which we then injected into the cells. Now it was time to wait and see. 

One day three, we looked at our cells again through the microscope to see what had happened to them. Groups noticed many of their cells were disintegrating, dying and deforming from the vape juice. They did not look healthy, even after only a few days! At the end of day three we got to do a real dissection of a pig heart and lungs and looked at how vaping can really affect these precious organs. 

Aside from carrying out the experiment we also got to tour several of the labs and meet many scientists who are working on some very cool research. Students were able to interview and chat with a few of the scientists during the afternoon of our second day. 

I am really hoping that this learning partnership helped students create an appreciation for the scientific community and potentially an interest in the field of science as a career path one day. We will get a chance to do this trip again in two years (once every other year) and I am already looking forward to it. 

Katherine Andres

Grade 11 Biology Teacher

in: General Showcase of Learning