, Salem, MA


February 17, 2009

Not Little Miss Muffet's curds and whey

Students get a lesson in biotech

DANVERS — About 10 Danvers High students spent a recent class making cheese curds.

They carefully measured milk into test tubes, added different enzymes like rennin, lemon juice and chymosin, heated the mixtures and logged the results.

No, this was not a cooking class, but a new biotechnology course aimed not only at teaching about curds and whey, but at giving kids 21st century skills and a future in a growing industry that has a cluster on the North Shore.

"It's 21st century jobs for this area," Danvers lead science teacher Lee Russo said.

Russo hopes the biotech course, new this year, will spark students' love of science with some hands-on learning. She also hoped this bit of cheese making would give students a taste of the fast-growing life sciences field that employs 43,000 in the state.

The course at Danvers High, and several other North Shore high schools, was made possible by a three-year, up to $13,000 BioTeach grant from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation.

Danvers received $8,800 this school year, the bulk of which went for equipment such as micro pipettes and new centrifuges. About $1,000 went to buy chemicals, strands of DNA and cell cultures.

The grant and $10,000 a year for the past three years from Cell Signaling Technology in Danvers has allowed the high school to buy the kind of equipment students would encounter in a college science lab.

Students simply liked getting their hands dirty.

"It's the first class where I've done hands-on work," junior Andrew Bernstein said.

"It's a lot more beneficial," said Senior Stephanie Carvel who wants to become a doctor, "because you are doing (science) instead of just reading about it."

The BioTeach program aims to jump-start biotech learning at every public high school in the Bay State.

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