Across Canada

Nicole Kowal-Seafoot knows sometimes the best lessons aren’t taught in a book.

A science and technology teacher at David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver, B.C., she drew on the wide appeal of forensic television shows to help spur interest and teach her students about the science of blood, and ultimately recruiting new blood donors along the way.

“There’s a forensics unit in the curriculum where a learning outcome is to know the types of evidence collected at a crime scene and the reasons for collecting each type,” Nicole says.

“We started out with fingerprints and fibres, and then we got to blood. My students performed synthetic blood splatter and blood-typing experiments to help them learn about the properties and biology of blood.”

Her students’ interest was high, and teens being teens, she knew they’d be even more engaged in the work if they could play with real blood.

“As a science teacher, I knew it would be great for my students to see the actual chemistry behind finding out their own blood type.”

That led her to Canadian Blood Services’ and ‘What’s Your Type?’

Late last year she contacted a partnership specialist with the community-based blood typing program and with the help of volunteers, organized an event at the school that saw three of her classes to determine their blood type.

“My students were so engaged in science class,” Nicole says. “They learned about the benefits of blood, the importance of donating blood and the science behind it through a fun and engaging medium.”

The students also received a presentation on Young Blood for Life, a national high school initiative that trains students to recruit their peers to donate blood at one of our permanent clinics or a mobile clinic at their school.

Afterwards, four students expressed their interest in having their school participate, with Nicole as their teacher sponsor.

The students organized a blood drive in February and thanks to their efforts 20 donations were received.

“It was a great feeling for me on both a personal and professional level,” Nicole says.

She’s been a blood donor herself since 2009 when her father-in-law was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which required countless blood transfusions to keep him alive to fight the disease.

“Unfortunately, he succumbed to an infection in April 2011, six weeks before I gave birth to his first grandchild.”

That’s part of why this experience was so rewarding for her. Nicole’s enjoyed so much success in piquing her students’ interest in science and engaging them in leadership opportunities through the blood program that she’s also connected our organization to another teacher at a different school to trial run the blood typing program with students there.

With another school year down in the books, Nicole’s keen to get started on a second campaign at David Thompson Secondary — and to pull a creative bait-and-switch approach to teaching the science of blood to her students.

“I’m looking forward to promoting the Young Blood for Life challenge throughout my teaching career,” she says.