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OpenPlant SAW project at Ludham Primary School

16/03/2015

OpenPlant is a new collaborative project between the University of Cambridge, the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory (openplant.org).  Research is focused on developing synthetic biology techniques for making improvements to plant systems that provide us with important materials such as fibres, wood, oils, sugar, fine chemicals, drugs and food.

Dr Colette Matthewman, project manager of the John Innes OpenPlant team worked with writer Mike O'Driscoll and artist Chris Hann to design and deliver a brand new SAW project with a year 5 class at Ludham Primary School.  In the science session children got hands-on with DNA extraction, played a game to learn Mendel's Laws of Inheritance and were shown how model plants such as the simple liverwort Marchantia enable scientists to study traits that are found in more complex plant species.

The poetry session produced some excellent work that reflected the children's understanding of the link between DNA and genetic differences.  The children learned about root nodules during the science session and so the art used these structures as a starting point.  Root nodules are specialised structures produced as a result of a symbiosis between certain plant species and bacteria in the soil that enable the plant to fix atmospheric nitrogen, giving plants a significant advantage in nitrogen poor soils.