12 / 10 / 2021
World Teachers’ Day 2021: education and animal research
Education has always been a key element of FRAME’s work and plays an important role in our mission to end the need for laboratory animal use in biomedical research and testing. Through education, training and information sharing with the scientific community and public, our aim is to support the promotion of better science and a more humane and compassionate society.
On World Teachers’ Day 2021, FRAME Education & Outreach Manager, Amy Beale, explains why education is key to influencing change in the field of animal research and shares useful educational resources for the classroom.
The principles of good science, research ethics, the use of animals in research and the availability of alternatives can be covered within the scope of the secondary school curriculum, across various subjects including the Sciences, PSHE, Citizenship and English Language. It is currently a requirement that the GCSE science curriculum allows students to learn about the basic process of drug discovery including the current role animals play in preclinical research. The principles of good science and how to plan and carry out well designed experiments is addressed under the ‘Working Scientifically’ section of the curriculum. There are also opportunities in the GCSE and A-Level Biology specifications to look at the issue of genetic modification of animals in research.
Raising awareness of the 3Rs principles, ethical issues around animal research and the justification for using and developing alternatives to animals will help inform future generations of scientific researchers. Teaching some of the ethical dilemmas faced by research scientists will encourage teenagers to have open, questioning minds, as well as an appreciation for the current scientific landscape and the need for a paradigm shift in thinking around animal experimentation.
Important issues in research such as reproducibility and transparency can and should be covered in the science curriculum alongside a solid grounding in the basics of experimental design.
Blinding, for example, is an important concept that removes bias from scientific experiments, yet still today some published papers fail to take complete steps to eliminate it. Understanding these ideas helps all of us to be informed members of society, whether this is in relation to the development of a new vaccine or interpreting a misleading headline about a new cancer treatment.
Whilst content that is not specifically written into the curriculum could be considered surplus, I know from my teaching background that everyday examples help bring lessons to life. Stories or ideas that I could structure my lessons around provided opportunities for me to flesh out the bare bones of the curriculum and inspire and engage my students. As an avid user of TES resources back in the day, I also appreciate the value of ready-made ideas, activities and lessons that can be used, adapted, and shared between teachers. Whilst the value of each varies, they would often provide a starting point in my lesson planning.
At FRAME, we are in the process of developing our own activities and resources for teachers that address some of the scientific issues of using animals in research and work being done to identify alternative approaches – watch this space!
In the meantime, in recognition of World Teachers’ Day 2021, we would like to share some organisations that provide or share free online resources around the topic of medical research and animal research which may be of use to students and teachers alike:
- The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry: https://abpischools.org.uk/
- RSPCA: https://education.rspca.org.uk/education/teachers
- Animal Aid: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/education/education-resources/
- Cruelty Free International: https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/sites/default/files/Cruelty%20Free%20International%20Student%20Resource-compressed.pdf
- Understanding Animal Research: https://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/teacherzone/teaching-resources/
- Biotechnology and Biological Services Research Council (BBSRC): https://bbsrc.ukri.org/engagement/schools/