For the past five years, Cardozo Middle School students have been experiencing science with a twist, climbing onboard a mobile lab called Ag in Motion where they have a firsthand experience performing science experiments. The 53-foot-long tractor trailer has the latest technology onboard and students complete the labs within the timeframe allotted during the school day.
Laboratory Coordinator Alyssa Guzman instructed the students last week for three days of experiments involving DNA extraction from a strawberry and a density lab with different liquids.
“This is (lab) also bringing the agricultural side to their classroom with what they already learned,” said Guzman. “It is a challenging course so the hands-on experiments help them apply what they have learned in class.”
Normally only the seventh and eighth graders are able to participate in the mobile lab experiments, however this year Cardozo Middle School Principal Kevin Bizzini was able to secure another day so that the sixth grade students could experience the agricultural science classroom on wheels.
“The kids from when they step on to when they leave are excited,” added Guzman. “It is rewarding for me and for them.”
The strawberry DNA extraction included examining a plant cell and comparing it to an animal cell. After analyzing the cells an explanation is given regarding DNA located within the cell. The students learn what the nuclear membrane is composed of, breaking the process down, so the students can get the full understanding when it comes together and they are able to extract the DNA strand from the strawberry.
During the density lab students were able to see the different liquids and how they measure up to each other compared to their densities. They also incorporated viscosity which is the state of being thick, sticky and semifluid in consistency due to internal friction.
The students use worksheets to follow the scientific methods along with the hands-on experiments that include the new generation science standards.
“So when they have salt water we compare it to soap and put it in a test tube where they can actually see the soap move above the salt water,” said Guzman. “Almost like a lava lamp, like the students explained it.
“The get to see the density live and they are actually doing the lab themselves; it is all on them. So if they follow directions they will get results.”
Guzman instructed approximately 20 classes during the three day stint at Cardozo, which included all grades. With help from farmers, support from the board members, Stanislaus County, and the agriculture family the non-profit agricultural mobile experience is able to visit middle schools within Stanislaus County at no charge, promoting agriculture and potential careers in agriculture.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for our students to experience conducting a scientific experiment in a lab setting,” stated Bizzini. “The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize inquiry and experimentation and the mobile Science Lab helps us expose more of our students to these activities.
“Ag in Motion offers this experience at no cost to the school; their generosity is an added benefit for all Cardozo’s students.”