The winner of the Society of Biology’s ‘School Biology Teacher of the Year’ visited the Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU) and University Herbarium as part of her prize.
Top UK biology teacher spends the day at SLCU
Biology teacher Catherine Russell, from Altrincham Girls’ Grammar School in Manchester, was nominated for the award by her pupils in recognition of her outstanding teaching. Winning the award meant successfully negotiating a demanding selection process, with a panel of experts conducting interviews with her head teacher, technicians and students, observing her lessons and interviewing her at length.
After spending the morning exploring the Herbarium and helping to digitise some of Darwin’s samples to be added to the Herbarium’s online archive, she spent the afternoon with SLCU researchers exploring cutting edge techniques in plant sciences. Firas Bou Daher introduced her to modern microscopy techniques, from using sophisticated powerful microscopes to image individual living plant cells, to seed dissection using microscopes not too dissimilar from those her own students use. Hayley MacCollough showed her an ongoing genetics experiment in the green house, and discussed which core biological concepts can be taught through either animal or plant examples. She learned more about computer modelling and mathematics as applied to biological systems from Stephanie Unna. The emphasis on the use of maths in contemporary biology has very clear relevance to the increased importance of maths in the biology curriculum, which teachers are trying to convey. A tea and cake reception on SLCU’s roof terrace, overlooking the Botanic Garden rounded off her visit.
The day was designed as a celebration of the major scientific breakthroughs plant science has contributed to biology and an exploration of the interdisciplinary nature of modern plant science. The Award was partially sponsored by Science and Plants for Schools, a programme at the University of Cambridge funded by the Gatsby Foundation that supports high quality plant science teaching in schools and colleges.
The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is a new research institute funded by the Gatsby Foundation. The aim of the Laboratory is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development.