Syracuse, N.Y.– Seventh graders at West Genesee Middle School were all caught up in vaping Wednesday. Not puffing them themselves mind you, but experimenting on living cells using electronic cigarette chemicals to see precisely how they are affected by them.
The students gathered their pipettes, Petri dishes, and microscopes and gathered in science teacher Margaret Barrett’s classroom, breaking off into teams where they made a control group of cells in a water solution and a test group that they subjected to a dilution of e-cig juice. The experiment, developed by Cornell University Veterinary Medicine’s Advancing Secondary Science Education Through Tetrahymena (ASSET) program, is a new learning module designed for classrooms from elementary school to high school to examine the effects of electronic cigarette vapor.
Barrett received the kits and coordinated with the English Language Arts teacher, Susan Marshall, to study vaping in ELA and then apply the scientific study in her three classes. Under the microscope, the Tetrahymena swim around vigorously in straight lines indicating healthy behavior. But when a few drops of the solution are added to the test group–an amount equal to 2-3 puffs of an e-cig, they slow to a crawl, many clumping together in a dead mass.
Barrett was grateful to be able to get the kit from ASSET and allow her 65 students to direct their own research towards a topic that could directly affect them. “Its important as an educator to teach meaningful, real-world lessons,” Barret said “If this makes a difference for even one of my students, then it really was a lesson well taught.”
The kits already are scheduled to be used by more schools across the country and are free to school districts.
Despite recent news of illness and death associated with vaping, The National Institute of Health (NIH) says teen vaping is on the rise. According to a national year to year survey from 2017 to 2018, vaping use rose 17 percent in one year for 8th-grade students–just a year older than the students conducting experiments in Barrett’s class.