South Pointe students board bus to learn about genetics

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comFebruary 4, 2014 

A bus usually takes students from school to home and back again, but the bus parked outside South Pointe High School on Tuesday is no ordinary vehicle. It’s a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory that’s part of the Greenwood Genetic Center.

Around lunchtime Tuesday, advanced-placement biology students sat at lab tables on the bus, which looks like a long, skinny classroom inside – except for the steering wheel. They listened to Ayla Pittman, a genetics instructor from the Genetic Center, give a short lesson on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Then, using sophisticated equipment, the students worked to identify genetically modified corn and isolate its DNA.

“It’s really nice,” said junior Nick Lujan of the “Gene Machine” bus. “This is way better than the school district’s equipment.”

The bus came to South Pointe because of the work of science teacher Jocelyn Gordon, who said she’s always looking for ways to expose her students to the most current developments in science education.

“As a teacher, I desire for them to be able to compete with the rest of the world,” Gordon said. “This is allowing them to get that firsthand experience and exposure to things they normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to have until they enter college.”

As she held an instrument that cost $200 – a much more expensive model than those seen in a typical classroom lab – student Breanna Spears said she was excited about working in the mobile lab with advanced materials.

“It’s great because I want to go into the biology field after high school,” she said.

And even though they were technically at school, just yards from the building, several students said they felt like they had taken a field trip.

“It’s fun, and it’s better than being in class,” said student De’aricka Wilkes – before her classmates pointed out that’s exactly where she was.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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