Nov. 27, 2019

Parasites take over Crescent Height High School

HPI Community Engagement

On a very cold afternoon of November 27th, 2019, I had the opportunity to volunteer, alongside eight other HPI trainees, in two grade ten biology classes from Crescent Height High School. Our aim was to introduce the students to parasitology and give them an overview of the topic with interactive activities to hopefully pique their interest in science, biology, and parasitology. We started by introducing the HPI group as well as ourselvesand more importantly the reasons why we decided to pursue science and research after graduating from high school. Even though all of our responses were very personal, we noticed a common theme regarding our motivations: the overwhelming curiosity and desire to understand the depth of biologyfrom the organisms’ physical structures, molecular interactions, to their physiological mechanismsare what pushed us to join the ever-growing world of science and research. The sessions continued with an overall presentation, giving an opportunity for the students to learn about parasites and their diversity, different animal and human parasitic infections, the impact and role of parasites in the ecosystem, and finally about the basic functioning of DNA sequencing as well as its importance in parasite identification.

After this brief introduction, we divided the students into four smaller groups to partake in some more hands-on activities. We displayed samples t of different types of parasites, which got mixed reactions as some students found them really exciting while others were on the fence about seeing the parasites up close. The “Travel Game” (designed by HPI MSc student, Adam Ranson) was an opportunity for the students to learn more about the prevention and treatment of parasitic infections in the form of a board game taking them through each continent. A different activity was a DNA sequencing game (developed by HPI PhD student, Stephen Pollo). This activity simulated a researcher’s work, from finding parasites in field fecal samples, processing those samples through “the PCR machine”, and discussing a treatment plan with the veterinarian. Lastly, the students took part in the “Pin the Parasite” activity (developed by MSc student, Sruthi Rajeev). This interactive activity centered around parasitic life cycles and the contrasting routes different parasites can take to reach a similar endpoint in their host. At the end of the activities the students were given an opportunity to engage in a Q&A session with Dr. Derek McKay.

I was personally delighted as a new HPI trainee to be able to share my knowledge on parasites. Overall, the students were all very excited to partake in the hands-on activities and to learn more about parasites, and we hoped to have inspired some of them to join us in their future. Thanks to Mr. Stone at Crescent Heights High School for inviting us into his classroom.