A Virtual Lab- based learning activity aimed at the Rs framework’s comprehension

Are you looking for a catching activity to introduce your students to the principles of the 3Rs – Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement of animal use for scientific purposes?
Would you like to engage them in exploring humane experimentation and the welfare of laboratory animals in order to raise their interest in ethics and integrity in science?
Organizing a school visit to an animal facility is a good way to reach these goals but not easy to implement.
However, technology consents us to take a close look at research involving animals without moving from our classrooms: pupils can participate in a virtual, interactive Lab tour through the Lab Animal Tour. This website represents a great resource and an innovative learning setting because provides the visitor with a virtual ‘street view’ tour of four important animal research facilities in the UK: the University of BristolUniversity of Oxford, Mary Lyon Centre at the MRC Harwell, and The Pirbright Institute.
The 360-degree vision of animal rooms and surgical suites is really immersive and comes out as a perfect scenario for a lesson on the 3 Rs principles, also in remote learning.
When the tour starts, visitors are given maps of the four facilities, with a summary of the specialized research field for each Institute: rooms are labeled so it is easy to turn around and explore.

The map of the Oxford University animal facilities

The activity

The activity is thought for secondary students (15-16 years old) who are approaching the 3Rs principles in science.

The lesson can be facilitated by the science teacher together with the English as a second language colleague in order to support students in understanding the videos and labels in English they find on the tour

Oxford University’s primate research facility

This was the given assignment:

You will visit 4 virtual laboratories’ environments (one for each breakout room/group), check them accurately (click on the hyperlinks you find within the scene), and then discuss with your pairs the following:

  1. identify the animal facilities in the room aimed at refinement and explain their function;
  2. take inspiration from what you see in the scene and with your pairs think of your own enrichment product, such as a better cage design, or toy for the animal you have found in the lab;
  3. share your ideas on Flinga if you like

You will have about 30 minutes to complete the activity, after that, we will be back in the plenary (zoom) session for sharing the results (30 minutes)

(If the activity is online) To facilitate the collaborative exploration of the scene, one person can lead it by sharing his/her screen

You find the exact instructions to give to your students in this document with a sheet to print if the lesson is in presence.

The activity is entirely replicable online.

A scene from the Lab Tour

Students feedback

The participation of students was enthusiastic: they have shown to appreciate the digital tour as a diversion from the usual video watching tasks because it represents a more immersive and interactive experience (both online and in presence).

The investigation of the rooms and facilities has arisen pupils’ interest in animal experimentation and welfare in science, sparking their curiosity and encouraging them to further question the topic.