How LEGO is bringing genomics to life in the classroom

Genomics BoxED teaching kits now available for 1,800 pupils in West of England schools

The West of England NHS Genomic Medicine Centre (WEGMC) and the University of the West of England (UWE) have partnered to develop an outreach activity on genomics for schools in Bristol, Bath, Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

The aim of the activity is for pupils to understand the purpose of the NHS 100,000 Genomes Project, and how the data collected will help form new and more precise diagnostic tests and personalised treatments in the future.

Cracking the code

Over the next two months, more than 1,800 Year 9 pupils from 15 schools across the South West region will have the chance to learn about human genetic coding by building ‘pro-bots’ out of LEGO after deciphering the genetic code puzzle. The resulting pro-bots can be very different from each other, depending on the puzzle and change in code that’s included in each activity.

The activity is delivered to schools as a BoxED (‘Education in a box’) by UWE student ambassadors. The activities in the BoxED allow pupils to take a string of letters, turn them into something physical and then realise the outcomes of just one letter being wrong. Being able to relate this to how diseases can affect entire families really helps to engage pupils and deepen their understanding of genomics.

Spreading the word

The hope is to have these BoxED activities available to schools and community events such as the Festival of Nature and Big Bang @Bristol. Funding for this initiative has been provided by Health Education England and the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, UWE to help mainstream genomic medicine and raise awareness of the benefits of looking at genomes for new diagnoses and treatments.

GEP genomics education programme director Maxine Foster said: “Health Education England is delighted to have funded this innovative activity through our Genomics Education Programme. Reaching out to schools and supporting health and science education is an important aspect of our role.”

To learn more about this scheme, please visit the UHB website.