Mobile lab brings hands-on STEM learning to Reed students
student onboard the mobile science lab

“Woah! That's DNA? Gross!” a fifth-grade student exclaimed while pulling a white slimy string of strawberry DNA from a test tube. Seattle Children’s Science Adventure Lab visited Reed Elementary School in March and brought hands-on STEM learning and lots of “oohs” and “aahs” with it.

“This provides an opportunity for students to be scientists for the day and imagine their futures!” Fifth-Grade Teacher Britney Ciolek explained. She’s taught at Reed for five years and helped bring the mobile science lab multiple times.

The mobile science lab, a 45-foot RV wrapped in colorful images of DNA and cells, feels surprisingly roomy inside even with 25 energetic students onboard. It features multiple lab stations, sinks, and aside from the steering wheel at the front, it’s easy to forget it's mobile.

The program is part of the Seattle Children’s Science Education Department and travels to schools across the state to introduce young students to innovative and hands-on science education.

“We’re supporting what they’re learning in the classroom,” Senior Scientist Billy Roden explained. He’s a neuroscientist who volunteered to help with the program ten years ago and has since brought the experience to almost 100,000 Washington students.

student looking at strawberry in bag

Students donned plastic aprons, safety glasses, and gloves to board “the best bus ever” and listened carefully for directions on their experiment— extracting DNA from a strawberry.

They started by smashing a strawberry in a plastic sandwich bag and then used pipettes, clear plastic tubes that resemble an eye dropper, to measure small amounts of liquid.

“It had air bubbles the first time, so I had to do it again,” a student explained as they proudly held up their pipette of air-bubble-free strawberry juice.

Students practiced measuring dyed water using pipettes in their classroom before the mobile lab arrived.

"Hands-on science experiences like this are important to provide students opportunities for success and to show them career opportunities that they might not experience otherwise,” Ciolek said. “This lab also connects with our fractions and measurement units in math as well as our research standards in reading."

Students completed multiple steps to isolate their strawberry’s DNA and then used a wooden stick to remove the slimy white substance from their test tube and place it on a piece of black paper to dry and take home.

students holding up test tubes

“It’s so slimy, it looks like boogers” a student observed.

“Is that really inside us?” another asked.

The Adventure Lab team smiled at the students’ reactions.

“I enjoy getting to introduce them to a lab setting,” Senior Mobile Lab Scientist Sarah Garcia said. “We hope hands-on learning will get them interested and help inspire them later in life.”

Students said they thought doing science would be a fun job and wanted to go back to the lab and do more experiments.

“I didn’t know scientists had so much fun,” a student remarked.

students outside mobile lab
student holds up bag with strawberry
student extracts strawberry DNA
student extracts strawberry DNA
student extracts strawberry DNA
student extracts strawberry DNA
scientist puts liquid in test tubes
students onboard mobile lab
student extracts strawberry DNA
student holds bag with strawberry mush
student looks at test tube
student looks at test tube
student looks at strawberry mixture
students onboard mobile lab
student onboard mobile science lab

TPS Media Contact

Kathryn McCarthy, Strategic Communications and Marketing Manager | 253-571-1015 |

About Tacoma Schools

Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...


Read more Tacoma Public Schools stories . . . . .