Biology

We have a number of Biology outreach programs for VCE and Year 9 and 10 students available at our Melbourne, Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga campuses.

Our workshops are created alongside academics and high school curriculums.

To ensure students and teachers get the most out of our workshops, we encourage hands on learning that covers a range of scientific branches including, but not limited to:

  • immunology
  • genetics
  • ecology
  • forensics
  • microbiology

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Middle years

Bacterial food poisoning

Curriculum: Years 9 and 10, General Science

Dates and locations:

Duration: 3 hours

Cost: $24 per student

Class capacity: 40 students

This workshop introduces students to the common pathogenic bacteria associated with “gastro” or food poisoning, highlighting the importance of proper storage, personal hygiene and preventative measures that can be taken to avoid or minimise infection.

In the laboratory students are shown basic microbiological techniques, such as:

  • handling, sampling and culturing bacteria on agar plates
  • preparing slides for staining
  • observation of bacterial cells using microscopy
  • Time permitting, students sample skin and other surfaces in their environment for the presence of bacteria.

Includes:

  • a one-hour lecture (optional)
  • a two-hour lab session.

Disease and diagnosis - Malaria, a case study

Curriculum: Years 9 and 10, Extension Biology

Dates and locations:

Duration: 3 hours

Cost: $24 per student

Class capacity: 25 students

In this workshop students work with educators and researchers to explore what causes malaria, how it makes people sick and how it is diagnosed. They are shown

  • how microscopy is used to detect the malaria parasite in blood samples
  • how an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) procedure is used to detect anti-malaria antibodies in patient samples
  • how to interpret the results

This workshop includes a presentation on malaria to provide a context for the laboratory session.

Workshop activities span all three strands of the AusVELS curricula framework – Science Understanding, Science as a Human Endeavour and Science Inquiry skills.

Teachers are offered post-workshop activities to follow up in the classroom.

Forensic frenzy

Curriculum: Years 7–8 and 9–10, General Science

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: $20 per student

Class capacity: 25 students

A crime has been committed. The case is being investigated by police and various pieces of evidence have been collected. Your role is to assist the police investigation to determine who committed the crime. In a fast-paced workshop, students draw valid conclusions from:

  • the available evidence using problem-solving skills
  • paper chromatography
  • different types of microscopy
  • fingerprint and dental record information (Years 7–8)
  • forensic tests for blood (Years 9–10)
  • DNA profile analysis (Years 9–10).

Get into genes

Curriculum: Years 9 and 10, General Science

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: Free

Maximum: 30 students

This workshop highlights the application of biotechnology to selective breeding in the agricultural industry.

Rotating through four workstations, students will:

  • extract DNA and gain experience of techniques such as restriction enzyme analysis and gel electrophoresis
  • acquire an understanding of how modern genetic engineering tools are used by Australian scientists and researchers to breed farm animals and crops better suited to the changing environment
  • work through examples of selective breeding using phenotype and genotype data for both plants and animals.

VCE

Flu attack - immunity fights back

Curriculum: Year 12, VCE Biology Unit 3

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2.5 hours

Cost: $26 per student

Class capacity: 25 students

Students are presented with a simulated case study in which a spreading cluster of high fatality influenza-infection related deaths are newly identified in South East Asia. In this workshop students will:

  • utilise our microscopes to:
    • identify the different cells that participate in an innate immune response
    • discover which immune cells are responsible for the new high‑fatality influenza infections
  • use an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) to identify and diagnose 'patients'

Students gain hands on knowledge about the properties of adaptive cells and why antibody-based technology can be used for medical diagnostics and disease research purposes.

This workshop provides a context for students to understand the importance of disease surveillance and monitoring around the world.

Genetics of phenylketonuria

Curriculum: Year 11, VCE Biology Unit 2

Location;

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: $24 per student

Class capacity: 30 students

Students will explore inheritance models and genetic screening in the context of the metabolic disease Phenylketonuria (PKU) by:

  • examining methods of diagnosing PKU
  • conducting tests to determine the likelihood a patient is suffering from the disease
  • exploring techniques used in genetic testing
  • discussing the history and ethical issues surrounding newborn testing.

Students are given the opportunity to examine genetic testing results from a hypothetical family and to describe the inheritance patterns involved using a pedigree chart.

The workshop is supported by a lecture about the cause, symptoms and treatment of PKU.

Get into gums - bioinformatics and biodiversity

Curriculum: Year 11, VCE Biology Unit 1

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: Free

Class capacity: 30 students

Get into Gums is an interactive bioinformatics program that provides insight into the impact DNA sequencing technology has had on conventional classification techniques.

Practical activities challenge students to explore:

  • the relationship between iconic eucalypt species
  • the use of morphological features
  • the use of DNA sequence data

Students also gain an understanding of the adaptation and biodiversity of Australian eucalypts within the context of evolution.

Get into Gums has been developed to align with Unit 1 Biology, Area of Study 2. This workshop also helps students gain the knowledge and experience required for ‘a bioinformatics exercise’ given as one of the Assessment tasks for School Assessed Coursework (SAC) Outcomes 1 and 2.

Get into genes - biotechnology (DNA tools and techniques)

Curriculum: Year 12, VCE Biology Unit 4

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: Free

Class capacity: 30 students

This workshop highlights the application of biotechnology in facilitating improvements to dairy cattle and crop production in the Australian environment. Rotating through four work stations, students will:

  • examine how technology has evolved from selective breeding through to genetic modification and genomic selection
  • gain comprehensive knowledge of DNA manipulation techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gel electrophoresis through modelling, setting up reactions, and loading real DNA samples for analysis
  • undertake a simulated experiment during which they screen for transgenic plants, and a genomic selection exercise with simulated use of restriction enzymes
  • undertake a genomic selection exercise with the simulated use of restriction enzymes. This provides an enriching context in which to understand how these techniques are used to extract vital genetic data.

This workshop has been developed to align with Unit 4 Biology, Area of Study 2. This workshop helps students gain the knowledge and data required for ‘A report of a laboratory investigation’ given as one of the Assessment tasks for School Assessed Coursework (SAC) Outcome 2. Additional student notes and teacher guide for School Assessed Coursework provided on request.

Get into genes - issues in gene technology

Curriculum: Year 12, VCE Biology Unit 4,  Year 11, VCE Biology Unit 2

Dates and locations:

Duration: 1.5 hours

Cost: Free

Class capacity: 30 students

This workshop examines gene technology regulation in Australia, and offers an overview of the application of gene technologies in genetically modified crops grown around the world.

Students will explore public interest issues associated with gene technology applications in the agricultural industry, including a consideration of the following points of view:

  • social
  • environmental
  • ethical
  • political

The material explored assists students to develop an understanding of the inter-relationships between biological, cultural and technological evolution.

Issues in Gene Technology has been developed to align with Unit 4 Biology, Area of Study 2. This workshop helps students gain the knowledge required for ‘A response to an issue’, given as one of the Assessment tasks for School Assessed Coursework (SAC) Outcome 2. Additional student notes and teacher guide for School Assessed Coursework provided on request.

The skills developed in this workshop might also be applied to Unit 2 Biology, Area of Study 3 ‘Investigation of an Issue’.

Heredity and patterns of inheritance

Curriculum: Year 11, VCE Biology Unit 2

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2.5 hours

Cost: $26 per student

Class capacity:

  • Albury-Wodonga 36 students,
  • Melbourne and Bendigo 25 students

In this workshop students will explore the principles of Mendelian genetics by manipulating and examining Drosophila fruit flies. The workshop develops student understanding of:

  • heredity
  • genotypes, phenotypes and ratios
  • monohybrid cross predications
  • traits:
    • dominant
    • recessive
    • X-linked
    • independent
    • linked

Students are challenged with questions that could be used for School Assessed Coursework (SAC). Teacher notes with suggested solutions are provided.

Living systems - investigating changing ecosystems

Curriculum: Year 11, VCE Biology Unit 1

Location:

Duration: 3 hours

Cost: $20 per student

Class capacity: 50 students (two groups)

Students investigate the history of Australian woodlands in a guided wander through the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, La Trobe University’s 30-hectare outdoor laboratory.

Students will

  • engage with a scientific methodology
  • investigate and interpret a aquatic ecosystem
  • learn about the adaptations of animals and plants to climate change.

This program is divided into two parts.

  1. The first part involves the development of understanding for Area of Study 2, with an emphasis on indigenous plants and animals and how these have changed over time, as well as discussions around history, human impact and fire ecology. The session also enhances understanding of biodiversity concepts and relationships between organisms.
  2. The second part involves a practical investigation of a wetland  ecosystem, with appropriate methodology and data collection techniques to enable completion of outcomes in Area of Study 3.

Student notes and teacher guide for School Assessed Coursework (SAC) materials are provided.

Manipulating DNA to analyse genes

Year 12, VCE Biology Unit 4

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2.5 hours

Cost: $26 per student

Class capacity: 36 students

Students will analyse a Drosophila (fruit fly) gene through:

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
  • gel electrophoresis procedures

Beginning with training in micro-pipetting, this hands on experience will consolidate student understanding of the processes required to manipulate DNA and the meaning behind bands on a gel.

Students will work through questions that could be used for School Assessed Coursework (SAC).

*Teacher notes with suggested solutions are provided.

Testing plants for antibiotics

Curriculum: Year 11, VCE Biology Unit 1

Dates and locations:

Duration: 2 hours

Cost: $24 per student

Class capacity: 30 students

This workshop – developed by a botanist and a microbiologist – allows students to explore biodiversity and the potential bioprospecting offers for finding new drugs to mitigate global microbial resistance.

Students will:

  • tour the University grounds
  • be introduced to plants that have been used in traditional medicine
  • use a variety of techniques to test plants to determine if they contain substances with antimicrobial properties.

This workshop is supported by a seminar about bacteria, bioprospecting, biopiracy and developments in current research into alternatives to antibiotics.

*The workshop is aligned to Unit 1, Area of Study 2.

For enquiries please contact SHE outreach (+61 03 9479 6516), join our mailing list or download our brochure [PDF 2.3MB]