Samuel Guzman’s eyes widened with wonder as he looked at his own cells under a microscope. Guzman is one of the seventh-grade students from Sleepy Hollow Middle School who took on the role of scientist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Sleepy Hollow.
“I like the projects,” said Guzman, as he and his classmates rotated from station to station in the DNA Learning Center (DNALC) with the assistance of analytical scientists from Regeneron.
Student Aurora Ludewig said, “I like having hands-on experiences. It is one thing if you tell me what to do, but if you let me do it, it makes more sense.”
Students studied their swabbed cheek cells, created necklaces with beads that represented DNA, and viewed mutations of fruit flies and worms under a microscope. For a project to extract DNA, students mixed wheat germ with soap and water, shook test tubes and added ethanol alcohol which acts as a magnet for DNA.
Sleepy Hollow is one of 150 non-profit organizations with which Regeneron partnered worldwide. Company employees made the event, the third annual Day for Doing Good through Volunteer New York, possible.
The DNALC opened in November in conjunction with Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Students from throughout the region can now learn more about genetics in two classrooms.
“We want to increase their knowledge of genetics,” said Harlem DNA Manager Melissa Lee, who explained that children today are exposed to DNA at a very young age through television and the media. “We want to give them a sense of what DNA can tell them about themselves and their health and also address misconceptions,” said Lee.
SHMS Principal Joshua Whitman said, “It is a perfect fit. The DNA Learning Center offers students experience in a true lab with real scientists. Going offsite, out of the classroom, further enhances the experience.”
“We are so lucky to have such tremendous resources located right here in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow and are extremely appreciative to Regeneron for their partnership,” said Whitman.
Scientist Haibo Qiu said the SHMS students received the basics in biology and chemistry that they can utilize in future courses.
“To see the surprise on their faces when they saw their own cells was amazing. This makes a good impression on them about science,” said Qiu. Students study living environment in the seventh grade and will take the Regents exam at the end of eighth grade.