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PA Cyber students get hands-on lab experience at Penn State Beaver

Oct 5, 2018

PA Cyber students participate in a simulated blood typing lab after getting classroom instruction at Penn State Beaver. 

"What determines your blood type," Dr. Cassandra Butterworth asked the group gathered in the biology laboratory.

A few hands went in the air.

"Your parents," one student correctly answered.

The handful of PA Cyber students, parents and staff were learning about blood in the biology lab with Butterworth and Dr. Stephanie Petroski, both professors, during a PSU Lab Day at the university's Beaver campus in Monaca

The group participated in a blood typing lab experiment after getting a scientific overview on the ABO blood typing system, antigens, and agglutination — the reaction to antibodies and their corresponding antigens mixing and forming visible clumps.

Organized by physics teacher Erin Butler, the hands-on lab allowed students to take four unknown simulated blood samples and work with a partner to figure out their blood type — A, AB, B, or O.

"I thought it was really neat, to be able to test it right there physically and be able to see the reactions — that was neat," said Shelley Geiger of Pittsburgh, who brought her daughters Trinity, 10th grade, and third-grader Bella Geiger.

Students learned that knowing ones blood type is important. People with the O type blood are universal donors, because O type does not contain antigens. People with AB-Positive, on the other hand, are universal recipients.

Every 120 days, Petroski told the group, all the red blood cells in the body will replenish, making blood donation possible.

Butterworth said different populations have different blood types, which goes back to genetics. B+ is common in the United States, for example, while A is more common in Asia, she said.

Tara Dubinsky attended with her daughter Lily Lehnhardt from Cranberry, Venango County.

"I had a blast," Dubinsky said. "I thought both the doctors that did the presentation did very well. It was challenging enough, yet it was simple enough that we got to enjoy it. I learned a few things."

"The lab was really nice," said Lehnhardt, 14, a ninth-grader, who enjoys science and is leaning toward a future career but isn't sure. "The idea of the lab helped push that a little bit," she said.

Butterworth is a wildlife geneticist and Petroski is a cancer geneticist.

"My favorite part of the day was watching the students and parents doing the blood typing – seeing something first hand, making observations of agglutination, deciding blood type from those observations and even making some mistakes was an excellent experience for all," Butler said. "Our experience at Penn State Beaver completely exceeded my expectations."

In addition to the lab and instruction, Penn State provided a campus tour, PSU swag and lunch for the students.

Students attending the lab ranged from eighth-graders to 12th-graders with a range of interests that included nursing, forensics, neuroscience, and accounting.

CEO Brian Hayden said "These science outings offer our students a great opportunity to see a live lab, visit different campuses, and also to make connections with colleges and universities to determine what they want to do after high school. In the future, we intend to offer these all over Pennsylvania, partnering with other colleges and universities."

The next lab day will take place Nov. 20 at the Community College of Beaver County.

Media Contact

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.