NVTHS students in biotechnology study Zebrafish
WESTFORD – Students in the Nashoba Valley Technical High School Biotechnology program have their feet wet this year… actually, their hands are more specifically.
In order to meet the state’s biotech curriculum structure, Teacher John Milhaven had to provide a facet that “related to the proper and ethical care of laboratory animals.”
But what animal?
“If you think of laboratory animals, you think of mice or rats, of course,” Milhaven said, “and I thought mice or rats would be costly and stinky.”
His second thought? The fruit is moving. But Nasha Tech is a school with an award-winning restaurant run by staff and students of the Culinary Arts program which is open to the public under ordinary, non-pandemic conditions.
Thus the concept of fruit flies.
“I was afraid I would be in trouble if the fruit flies went out and made their way to the cafeteria or the Culinary Arts.” “I was thinking of zebrafish, then.”
If you think about it, it makes sense. Fish collect in classrooms, right?
But how, one would ask, will zebrafish research maybe be useful in biotechnology teaching?
“Zebrafish are widely used in genetic engineering and embryological studies,” said Milhaven. “I thought it would be fascinating and attractive for students to have an animal they can look at and look after. The students will make a review of their work and understanding of zebrafish and what it takes to make them safe and happy. “
Moreover, as Milhaven pointed out, zebrafish are chordates — they have a spinal cord — but their genomes are much nearer than fruit flies.
In the biotechnology classroom, Milhaven created a small aquarium, purchased 6 zebrafish at The Fish Nook in Acton, and got children involved in the feeding and care of them, including the testing of different chemical levels of water.
“The goal is to get a colony going to support themselves,” Milhaven said, adding that he learns just as the children do.
“I knew a little bit of zebrafish, but I also learn.”