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Biology class learns about cancer from survivors

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MEADOW HOMES — At the Vancouver Virtual Learning Academy, William Baur’s high school biology class is piloting the OpenSciEd high school science curriculum. The students recently started a cancer-focused unit. After spending the first part of the school year focusing on ecosystems, Baur wanted to focus on a subject that would build on students’ understanding of cells, DNA, proteins and body systems. human.

Cancer can be a difficult subject to talk about, but with 42% of cancer cases preventable, Baur hoped his students would become more aware of who is at risk of developing cancer and why.

At the beginning of each new scientific unit, students generate a list of questions on the subject. One of the first questions asked by Baur students was, “How is female breast cancer caused?”

Just then, Baur read a podcast, Rotten Melons, hosted by two Vancouver labor and delivery nurses and breast cancer survivors. He invited Deanna Berger and Meredith Pena to share their experiences and help answer one of the big questions from students: where should we focus our treatment and prevention efforts?

Much of the information available online and in various educational resources focuses on numbers and hard facts, rather than the emotional and other aspects of what it feels like to have breast cancer. Through their weekly podcast, nurses Berger and Pena tackle these lesser-known topics, such as hair loss, anxiety, chemotherapy, and toxic positivity. Baur reached out to them in hopes of broadening her students’ understanding of what it means and feels like to have breast cancer survivors, by providing their real-world stories to enhance the lessons.

Based on student feedback, Berger and Pena’s visit to the classroom made a lasting impression.