Students use cells from Henrietta Lacks in language arts-science project

Bellefonte Area School District  |  Posted on

Students and teachers at Bellefonte Area middle and high school prove that any subject can be related, even if they appear to be seemingly different. During a class project, they connected language arts and science subjects by reading a book that related to the same cells obtained in Drew Eddinger’s biology class.

Ed Fitzgerald, Advanced Placement government teacher and middle and high school gifted instructor, said he and seventh-grade language arts teacher Keith Guiswite created a “literature circle” around the novel, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” The book discusses the social, political and scientific topics about a woman, Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her permission, and then reproduced.

They then partnered with Eddinger and her freshman biology class to work with Lacks’s cells for a science experiment including making cell slides.

Eddinger said that two days before the lab, students made the microscope slides with the chromosomes. All lab materials were provided by Science in Motion through Juniata College, including the HeLa cells, which they ordered from CellServ.

When the middle school students joined the high school class, Eddinger’s students explained to them how the slides were made. They then viewed the chromosomes and made connections to the previously-discussed information.

Prior to the science lesson, high school students learned about chromosomes and how they replicate and separate during cell division. Eddinger said they also discussed how cancer cells differ from healthy cells in relation to the project.