Carbohydrate classroom reaches Northwest Territories and Northern British Columbia

Ali Chou • Posted: February 25, 2021

High school teachers become students for one day to learn about glycoscience

More than 20 high school science teachers from across Northwest Territories and Northern British Columbia attended a “virtual carbohydrate classroom” on Monday for a hands-on workshop on glycomics.

Unlike traditional outreach activities that involve students as participants, this workshop is targeted for science teachers to experience educational resources developed from GlycoNet and University of Alberta’s Centre for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (CMASTE).

Since 2015, GlycoNet has been working with CMASTE to curate classroom resources produced in the labs of GlycoNet Investigators across the country. High school teachers are invited to workshops to learn about glycomics from the resources and in turn implement them in their own classrooms.

“High school is where the interest in science really takes off, and outreach like this can show students how glycomics connects to everyday science,” says Dr. Warren Wakarchuk, Scientific Director at GlycoNet. “This is an opportunity for teachers to get a first-hand look at how glycomics is making global impact on human and animal health.”

This year, the workshop was carried out virtually. The decision of moving it online has sparked more interests from local teachers, which gave rise to opportunities for the schools that do not or cannot usually offer science professional development.

“I am the only science teacher at my school, so we don’t really have science professional development opportunities here,” says Jillian Brown, a science teacher from Mackenzie Mountain School at Norman Wells, Northwest Territories. “The experience is great and certainly would be interesting to try to take it to my students.”

The day-long workshop included presentations on GlycoNet’s current research projects including blood transfusion, flu virus, and diabetes. GlycoNet trainees at the University of British Columbia showed the teachers lab techniques and instruments through virtual lab tours.

“I really enjoy the virtual lab tours and the science presentations,” says Lindsay Lynn, science teacher from North Peace Secondary School at Fort St. John, British Columbia. “In my class, we’ve discussed separating different substances. Being able to see how it’s done in action during the virtual tour is very neat.”

In addition, the workshop included hands-on demonstrations such as water filtration experiment using tap water, dirt, and various filtration systems such as rice, paper, and wood chips. The teachers also learned about the basic structure of proteins by using wire and tape in a protein-folding exercise. All teachers were able to participate in the activities using the ‘science kits’ assembled and mailed by CMASTE before the workshop.

“I like the fact that the experiments are so hands-on and simple to prepare,” continues Lynn. “Everything in the kit we received—glitter glue, tape, chickpeas, coffee filter—we can get it from local shops. I could really see myself doing the experiments with the students.”

Teachers can draw on this experience and adapt the resources to their biology, chemistry, environmental science, and anatomy classrooms. Resource materials include videos, case studies, webquests, and are available online in English and French.

CMASTE’s Project Manager Kerry Rose says that the bridge between the university research community and science teachers is important and believes events like this should happen more often.

“Our goal is to have teachers experience real-world science happening today in Canadian labs and to enable them to use that experience to engage their students.” says Rose. “The resources we created are designed by teachers who worked with the researchers at GlycoNet and can be used to help teach high school science curricula across Canada. Workshops like this allow teachers to experience the activities themselves, so they can confidently use or adapt them with their students when they go back to their classrooms.”

In the past, GlycoNet and CMASTE have hosted similar in-person workshops in cities in Alberta such as Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Lloydminster, as well as in Saskatchewan including Saskatoon and North Battleford.

To view high school resources provided by GlycoNet, visit

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