Ant Camp 2012
Ant Camp: High School Outreach Program in Genetics
Ant Camp is a National Science Foundation-funded program
designed to promote science learning and technology at the high-school
level. A major objective of the National Science Foundation
is to integrate research with education, especially outreach education
that will increase the scientific literacy of students and recruit them
into science careers. Our approach is to bring teams of
teachers and their students to the university for an intensive
week-long immersion course, who will then return home and become the
teachers themselves, running a genetics module for their high school
During Ant Camp, we will be learning about the principles of genetics by focusing on one particular group of organisms, the ants. Ants are one of the most ecologically important groups of insects in every terrestrial habitat on earth except Antarctica – if you were to round up all the ants in the tropical rainforest and weigh them, they would weigh four times as much as all the mammals! Their incredible biodiversity (there are over twelve thousand species of ants) and patterns of spread across the globe are a great model for understanding how genes vary among different groups (individuals, populations, species) and change over time. Moreover, ants, like us, tend to live in family groups, allowing students to explore the transmission of genes across generations and how they are shared within families.
What would we learn?
The Ant camp program is designed to introduce students to important concepts and principles of genetics. We will learn about the discovery of the “particles of inheritance,” the structure of DNA, how genes are transmitted, and the forces causing changes in genetic information over time. We will also learn how to isolate and read genetic information, and how to use genes as tools to solve scientific problems such as identifying parent-offspring relationships, determining what species live in a certain area, and reconstructing the evolutionary history of a group of species. We will gain hands-on experience with isolating, amplifying, sequencing and genotyping DNA, and will learn a number of specialized computer programs to read and interpret our results and connect them with national genetic databases from other researchers.
What would we do?
Participants spend a week at the University of Vermont. The program is structured as an intensive learning environment, combining field and laboratory investigations with lectures, discussions, and movies. Students are encouraged to pose questions about ants after observing colonies in the field and in the lab, and the group collectively comes up with hypotheses and design ways to use genetics to test them. We then conduct our experiments in the laboratory, with new skills taught every lab session, and collectively evaluate our results to see if our hypotheses were supported. At the end of the week, participants take the lead in designing a genetics experiment to be conducted at their home institution under their direction, with materials and equipment loaned to the school by the program.
How do I apply?Contact Dr. Sara Helms Cahan to discuss your interest and apply for the program. Ant teams are generally composed of a teacher and two students (although other compositions can be accommodated). To help you recruit team members, please print off and post our 2013 Ant Camp flyer. We like to have our teams in place by April 1, so inquire today!
Last modified March 06 2013 11:53 AM