Hands-on DNA

‘Hands-on DNA’ was a national strategic project aiming to make highly engaging, practical molecular biology experiences accessible to students in all parts of the UK. The project was led by The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC).

Led by ASDC, Nowgen also worked alongside At-Bristol and Centre for Life, two other organisations with considerable experience running innovative DNA programmes, to deliver the project.

Overall the project trained, equipped and supported 15 science centres to deliver molecular biology workshops. Nowgen individually supported five organisations:

The centres selected to take part included science and discovery centres, museums, and universities all of whom had proven expertise in schools engagement and very different levels of equipment and experience in molecular biology.

The needs of every centre were assessed and ASDC centrally purchased over 1500 individual items of equipment costing over £80,000 and delivered these in a bespoke manner to each centre. The Hands-on DNA team ran training academies to train participants in how to use this equipment as well as how to set-up and deliver one of two high-end practical molecular biology workshops. In addition the project ran a ‘buddy support system’ to help new centres to set up labs and run these workshops in their centres. Training handbooks and training videos were also created along with a full and flexible marketing pack to support the centres.

The project provided the necessary resources and project structure to assist centres to embed these high-quality molecular biology workshops as part of their on-going schools programme so they could continue their delivery after the funded phase of the project had been completed.

Centres were trained in one of two practical workshops dependant on the existing skills of the centre. The first, ‘A Question of Taste’ was a pre-existing full-day curriculum linked workshop for Post-16 students where students isolate and test an aspect of their own DNA. The second workshop known as ‘Bacterial evolution’ was created specifically for this project and is two-hours long and targeted at 14-16 year olds.

In total, the new centres delivered cutting-edge molecular biology workshops to 1,707 students and 176 accompanying teachers in 15 UK locations in the four months following training. All 15 centres have expressed their intent to continue running these workshops for students into the future.

The text on this page has been adapted from ASDC’s page describing the project.