Bio students use creativity to demonstrate knowledge

Hailey Andrews, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Biology teacher Laura Benedict had her Biology two students take part in a project. They were to write from the perspective of a pathogen (bacteria or virus) about its journey entering the body. 

According to Benedict, the students were given a few parameters regarding their stories. The stories had to include as much science as possible, but the students could write their stories in any manner they chose. 

Benedict has been doing this project since her first year teaching biology (she began teaching Biology 2 in the fall of 2012). She has chosen this kind of project because it has been scientifically proven that the brain is far more likely to remember a story than a bunch of random facts. To Benedict, the immune system is a story- “a series of events that occurs to prevent you from getting sick.” Therefore, if her students could integrate all these facts and put them into their stories, then they are far more likely to remember and learn the information.

One student took a creative approach to this project. He not only included all of the scientific information but some humor as well. Senior Evan Upole took his chance and created an article that not only interested his teacher but students at the high school as well. 

“I liked how the stories interacted with the reader. It was muy interesante,” said freshman Cadence Ickes. Check out the interview with Upole below.


Q & A with Evan Upole, 12


Do you think writing the story about pathogens helped improve your knowledge of the subject?


It definitely did. You need to know what the words mean to properly understand the subject.


Why did you choose to write the story from a more humorous perspective?


Writing things in a more informative, documentary-type way is typically boring. I chose to write about it in a humorous way because it made the info more interesting and easier to understand.


Do you enjoy adding things like writing into your science projects?


Yes, of course. Writing is one of my passions and I loved being able to take science, one of my favorite subjects, and put it into a story. Free-write assignments are always some of my favorites.


Best Entry


written by Evan Upole, 12


Skin. I hate it. Too many layers. Sometimes it’s too wet, sometimes it’s too dry, but all the time it’s fairly impregnable. Actually, it’s most of the time. Here’s a fun fact for you! Did you know that pathogens can smell blood just like sharks? No? Well, now you do. That’s definitely true and you can totally trust me because I’m not about to infect your blood. I’m actually going to infect your body, not your blood. Obviously. What am I, a vampiric bacterium? It’s no wonder you ran into a tree. Maybe don’t go chasing birds in the forest and you won’t get cuts on your arm.

Like I mentioned before, your skin is absolutely terrible for a little bacterium just like me! You have too many epidermal layers. Oh, epi means “on top of” and dermal means “skin.” Your cells are too thick for us to get through. Even when we get onto your skin, your sweat and oils kill us off. Skin is basically your first layer of defense against us. But now that you’ve gone and opened up your border wall, we can get right in! Thank you kindly, stranger!

Remember that blood I mentioned? It’s pretty bad for us. I got in before it scabbed, which will happen eventually, but it’ll take a bit. Pretty soon, I can tell your cells are sending out histamine. This is a chemical messenger that activates your inflammatory response. You know what that is, right? It’s when your cut gets all red and swollen and warm and painful. Always fun for me. If I recall, it also increases blood flow to the area and makes your blood vessels more permeable. Oh, do I have to define this too? Permeable means allowing liquid or gas through a surface, but I’d hope there isn’t any gas in your blood. All of these responses are to increase the amount of white blood cells at the cut area. …Huh. Guess that means I’ll be taking my leave!

Are you feeling warm? More than just at the cut? That’s another non-specific immune response. Your body knows I’m here, and it’ll turn up the heat a little with a fever to try to cook me out. But the joke’s on you, non-specific immune system. I’m tropical!

Man, I love what you’ve done with the place! There’s so many infectable cells and tissues around here, deep in your body. Let’s see, oh, right, the next stage of your immune response. I’d say that by now, your cut is absolutely filled with pus. The foamy white stuff is made of dead bacteria and white blood cells, which is why I got out of there. You know how disgusting that is, but imagine being a part of it. Speaking of white blood cells, I can see a couple as I pass by. They haven’t identified me yet, so I’m fine just finding a place to stay. There’s a ton of phagocytes, which are white blood cells that engulf pathogens and damaged cells. They just make sure we don’t spread, but they’re all busy with the initial response, so I’m fine for now.

Ever heard of something called a natural killer cell? No? Geez, you need to learn about your body. Try out Mrs. Benedict’s Topics in Bio 2 class, all right? Anyways, natural killer cells are, well, cells that naturally kill other cells. They release toxins that eat away at a cell’s membrane to puncture and kill it. I haven’t seen any of them so far, but I know that they exist. Nevertheless, today you learned!

Traveling through your blood means that I’ll eventually show up in your bones. What a coincidence that I just learned about what your bone marrow looks like! Your marrow produces blood cells, both red and white, but it doesn’t do much else. Bone infections can be deadly, but I’ll be nice and take you on the rest of the tour. Traveling up your veins to your heart, we’ll find the thymus gland. If you look to your right (no, don’t actually do that) you’ll see it storing white blood cells so they can mature and be released into your body to help with your immune response. You know, the thing I’m currently avoiding. Oh, yeah, your lymph system also helps. It’s basically your main immune defense. Your lymph nodes–you have them almost everywhere in your body–store white blood cells and filter out germs and bugs from your lymph, which is just another annoying fluid in your body. Immune defense and circulation and all that. This is getting boring…

Hey, look, there’s a macrophage over there. More like a macro-bore, am I right? Thank you for your laughter, I’ll remember that when I infect you. Macrophage directly translates to “big eater,” and is one of those phagocytes I mentioned before. They are used for specific immune response, which is when your body targets a specific pathogen. Looks like it’s going after unnamed bacteria number 4037681 right now, which just so happens to be the same bacteria species I am. That’s absolutely wonderful, now isn’t it. This tour will, sadly, have to be cut short. After your quite rude macrophage over there finishes breaking down unnamed bacteria number 4037681, it will hold up our antigen like a war flag of some sort. An antigen is whatever your body thinks is foreign, which is quite offensive mind you. But nevermind all that, I have a show to finish.

That antigen flag from unnamed bacteria number 4037681 lets the macrophage start a cell-mediated response. This response starts when a helper T-cell binds with the antigen and begins to release yet another chemical messenger, cytokine interleukin-2. And that is…happening right now. This chemical messenger will soon stimulate T-cell division for a cell-mediated response, which is, obviously, when your own cells fight off an infection. The main T-cells are cytotoxic cells–also known as killer T-cells–which make proteins that pierce membranes of infected cells and pathogens. I’m fairly certain that after the pathogens are gone, suppressor T-cells shut down your immune response, and then some specialized cells called memory T-cells stay. These memory cells retain information about a pathogen for a future immune response. No, this isn’t foreshadowing. Why do you ask? Anyways, I’ll be taking my leave. This was fun, but I would prefer to not be stabbed repeatedly. Ta-ta!

Dang, looks like there’s more helper T-cells here, too. But this time, your cytokine interleukin-2 is stimulating B-cells for your humoral response. Specifically plasma B-cells. These cells create defensive proteins called antibodies that are quite annoying. They bind to our antigen sites–that little protein that unnamed bacteria number 4037681 was forced to give up–and they loooove to hold bacteria together and inactivate us. Worse still, sometimes they hold us in groups for a macrophage to come along and eat us. Your immune system truly is sick, you know that? But just like with a cell-mediated response, after all of us pathogens are gone, you’ll keep some memory B-cells for future reference. However, now that the heat is on, both literally and figuratively, I’ll be leaving for good. This was a fun trip, but all vacations end after a while, and I’d prefer to make it back in one piece.


Welcome back! I’m so glad you could join me for my second trip! You’ve learned from last time, so there aren’t any more “birdwatching incidents” for me to go through. Instead, I’m airborne now, for absolutely no reason other than plot! Air is a funny thing, is it not? Breezin’ through your respiratory system like currents through the ocean, even though I have no idea what that is. …What? I may know a lot about your immune system, but I’m not omniscient. Geez, humans really are simple-minded. Yes, I know what irony is.

And we’ve hit the part I dislike; mucus. Feel that itching in the back of your throat? That’s your cells pushing your absolutely disgusting mucus out of your body. You’ll start coughing eventually, or even get a runny nose. Just to clean out any pathogens that may have been caught by this…fluid. Yet another non-specific immune response. But I’m not your average pathogen, so I know how to throw myself down your lungs and get back into your blood. Let’s see how long it takes for a memory cell to notice me…

As it turns out, not that long! Once you have memory cells, your body does a secondary response rather than a primary response. A primary response takes a while to heal from, and occurs when you encounter a pathogen for the first time. This time gives you a ton of symptoms. Oh, right. Did you know that symptoms aren’t caused by pathogens? They’re actually caused by your own immune system fighting us off! So, feeling sick is your fault, not mine. Check yourself.

Meanwhile, a secondary response is when a pathogen comes back–like me! Your memory cells directly target these pathogens, given that they haven’t degraded yet, and the response is a lot faster. You also don’t get sick, so that cough you feel may just be a little irritation. Basically, your body is built to defend, remember, and defend again. So you win this time, human. C’mon, just give a little violent exhale to get me the heck out of here. But don’t worry! I’ll come back in a couple years, just like a cicada. And I know how much you love those big, buzzing insects.