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Students take up fruit fly project
A handful of Kofa High School students took their genetics lesson to the next level during a science experiment using red eyed and white eyed fruit flies.
Their assignment? To breed the two species of fruit flies and determine how many of each are reproduced.
Biology teacher Wesley Martin said he opened up the opportunity to all of the students in his five freshman classes to stay after school and perform the genetics experiment for extra credit.
Four freshman — Elise Franco, 15; Samantha Kalkulak, 14; Taylor Leonard, 14; and Luz Rosa-Zendejas, 14 — took the challenge.
The students captured the flies “from the wild” by putting out jars of decaying fruit on their desks, which attracted the two different breeds.
From that point, said Leonard, they transferred the tiny flies into vials and put them to sleep using “Fly Nap.”
“You can't give them too much or they'll die,” said Martin, noting that the concoction is a mild form of ether.
Then the students “sexed” the flies by dividing them up into groups of four boys and four girls, determining their gender from what markings they saw on the insects under a microscope.
“The flies stay asleep for about an hour, which allows enough time to get them all under the microscope. Sometimes they wake up while the students are looking at them though — so they have to be quick,” Martin added.
Leonard said they put the flies into another vial filled with food and water in hopes that when they wake up, they will reproduce quickly.
Franco added that they divided the insects into a group of male and female red flies as well as a group of male and female white and red flies to establish what percentage of red to white eye flies they will find in the jars after a week's time.
“We're trying to find out how many of the population there are in the wild,” she said.
Kalkulak explained that they leave the flies in the cupboard and check on them after school every day to see how many there are.
Martin said the students have determined that the white flies aren't as common because the number of red flies far outnumbers the amount of white flies that are reproduced.
Although the girls all agreed that extra credit motivated them to participate in the experiment, they were also interested to see what the verdict would be.
“Mr. Martin seemed really excited about the project so I got really excited to,” Leonard commented.
“He mentioned that not a lot of schools have opportunities to do this so that's what encouraged me to participate,” Franco added.
Martin concluded that he feels that it is important for his students to get hands-on experience in the classroom versus just seeing the information presented to them in books or on the white board.
“When we teach genetics in class right now, we tell the kids if you cross this species with this species, you're going to get this number ... Now that's on the board, but when they're actually working with the real species, they can see it ... To me that's real life.”
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.