Family Science Investigation: You and Your Saliva - Historical Travels with Amylase
Your mouth is a complex chemical environment that kick-starts the digestion of food. Long before food has reached the stomach, cells within the mouth have secreted enzymes that start breaking down carbohydrates and proteins - the main components of food. Scientists have recently discovered that the diet of our ancestors thousands of years ago had a profound impact on the evolution of digestion, especially the molecules found in the mouth.
While the modern human diet abounds in starch-rich foods - think pastas, potatoes, rice and breads - for most of our history we lived off local food with varying amounts of starch. Some people relied on low-starch but high-protein diets (i.e. meats and fruit), while others lived off high-starch foods, such as rice and grains. These historical diets, shaped by the geography and availability of local plants and animals, had a significant impact on the evolution of digestion and metabolism.
This class will enable students to investigate the complex world of their own mouths at several levels. Students will use microscopes and other lab equipment to investigate the tiny cells and invisible enzymes that are found right inside their mouths. Importantly, students will have the opportunity to learn about aspects of molecular biology, metabolism, and evolutionary biology.
Family Science Investigation programs offer families an opportunity to participate together in science classes related to Museum research, including topics in biology, ecology, paleontology, geology, microbiology, chemistry and biotechnology. These classes are especially useful for homeschoolers looking for additional reinforcement to curriculum goals, or any family group that simply enjoys learning together!
Program Instructor: Lomax Boyd, PhD graduate student from Duke University; Christy Flint and Deb Bailey, Coordinators of the Micro World Investigate Lab
For more information contact Debbie Huston, scheduling coordinator, at 919.707.9840.