Soupy science: Lee County High School students learn the biology of food


BISHOPVILLE - With one roll of the thick and highly recognizable Jamaican tongue and pivot of the head, Lee Central High School biology teacher Mauvette Doyley captures the full attention of her lab full of students each day. It's her high-energy approach to learning that makes science fun, according to her students.

As they light up the room with their Bunsen burner, ring clamps and test tubes, she gives instructions on how to determine the level of carbohydrates, proteins and sugars in certain foods.

"With this knowledge, students are more aware of the importance and the benefits of consuming each nutrient in their correct proportion on a daily basis," Doyley says.

And there is so much more she teaches. As an extension of the knowledge on the biomolecule, Doyley says they also experiment on enzymes.

"Enzymes are important biological catalysts which are essential to break down the various nutrients in their simplest form," Doyley says. "During the process, students also discover how factors such as heat and pH affect the rate of enzyme activities."

It's her practical approach to addressing everyday questions utilizing common household products that students seem to appreciate most. They are even learning how substances are transported both passively and actively across cells and cell membranes, Doyley says.

"Demonstrations were done using simple everyday materials such as air fresheners, potatoes, gummy bears, salt and water," she says. "With this knowledge, students were able to make simple connections with how gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged and transported into and out of the lungs."

While Doyley acknowledges it is fun to see the students' reactions when their predictions are confirmed, the research is most important because it ignites their curiosity - a trait she says they will need to continue as lifelong learners and to successfully gain access to university.

"I provide students with numerous opportunities on a weekly basis to develop science process skills, critical thinking and an appreciation for the nature of science through inquiry-based learning experiences. (We also perform) investigative and hands-on lab activities that address the South Carolina State Standards," says Doyley. "Some of the hands-on activities we have conducted include viewing various specimens under the microscope. This experience has allowed students to observe cells, bacteria and viruses, which could be harmful to our health."

As fervent as she is to teach, Doyley has sought to learn as well. She holds a Master in Educational Leadership from American College of Education in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a Bachelor of Science in Education with a focus on Biology and Physics from the University of Technology in Jamaica. She also participates in as many professional development opportunities as her schedule will allow.

Says Doyley of teaching, "I didn't always want to be a teacher; I think the profession chose me. I wanted to be a doctor, and I felt, 'OK, I could use this as a stepping stone.'"

As it happens, teaching ended up being right, and she's been stepping ever since.