Biology students take a look at what’s on our plate

Biology students have been taking a look at what’s on our plate. Unusually, Fyling Hall’s Years 8, 10 and 12 are all currently studying enzyme connectives, also known as the digestive process.

Our plate is often a topic of conversation. What’s for dinner and is it nearly ready yet? These are arguably the two most commonly-asked questions by children of their parents. (I can attest to being asked these most days.)

Unfortunately, toddlers like mine have a habit of asking a question repeatedly, even if I think I’ve just answered it. My three-year-old, Ben, knows that eating healthy things will make him ‘big and strong’, hence why Popeye had dark green spinach whilst Mr Strong of Mr Men fame preferred iron-rich eggs. (Obviously the rest – the easy-going charm, second-to-none sense of humour, boundless patience and all-round good looks – will all be inherited due to the excellent Barrett gene pool.)

Most of us also know that we use our teeth to break food into smaller pieces when we chew – but this is only the beginning of the digestion process. (It’s also the bit my toddler understands. From this point on, it gets harder.)

By coincidence, due to several alterations that had to be made to the order of units of work because of lockdown last summer term, it just so happens that years 8, 10 and 12 are all currently studying these enzyme connectives.

To most of the population, that’s digestion.

If you put a potato in a bucket of water, a week later it is still a potato. Put it into our mouths and swallow, however, and it gets broken down into soluble molecules that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. This tricky task is what enzymes are for.

But you may be wondering, why do we need to study it on three separation occasions, in three year groups? It’s because science consists of several key ideas, the understanding of which makes all the difference to whether young people are able to progress to the next stage of learning. This particular topic demonstrates that, in science, learning is essentially a series of building blocks and that much of lower school is spent trying to get the early blocks secure.

Cue the extraordinary enzyme sock puppets that year 8 have been making this week.

Understanding what’s on our plate in Biology

Our greedy enzyme puppets have been gobbling up protein, starch and fat molecules as we focus on using a range of learning styles to ensure that students can best engage and that the topic is memorable. Modelling in science is a great way of simplifying concepts – and remembering them. By the time we reach Sixth Form, we are using slightly more sophisticated terminology to discuss the chemical interaction between food molecule and enzyme, discussing concepts like: tertiary structures, active sites, substrates, and disulphide bridges.

But the puppets (most probably) will always hold a very special place in our hearts, if not our stomachs. Our Biology students will certainly remember taking a look at what’s on our plate.

Dr Stuart Barrett, Head of Science