Elżbieta Henryka Strzelec, Poland

Elżbieta, from Warsaw, is a teacher of both biology and natural science, working in two different schools. She has 25 years' experience and is responsible for the education of students between the ages of 13 and 19.

She first came across Amgen Teach via its website. She went to the Amgen Teach workshop to "find out about new teaching methods and interesting things that attract students' attention, increase their interest in biology and help them to understand science better." Like every participant in Poland, she also received a laboratory set, which was to be "indispensable" for her further classroom experiments.

Elżbieta immediately applied some of what she had learnt to her classes, to help develop students' facilities for critical thinking – but she admits that transforming classes to be inquiry-based orientated is a still a "challenge" given the demands of examinations and curricula. "It is difficult to find a compromise between preparation for an examination, realisation of settled curriculum and open inquiry activities," she explains. However, inquiry-based activities, such as web quests and experiments, are now regular features of her classes.

One valuable principal Elżbieta gleaned from the workshop is "minds-on" activities, followed by "hands-on" exercises. "When we carry out experiments, I don't give the students any prepared recipe for how it should be done, but they discover the way to do it step-by-step," she says.

Activities that have been particularly popular with her students include genetics and natural selection, and all have benefitted from the inquiry-based materials that Elżbieta has sourced online. Her approach has been so successful in engaging students that "some of them are now studying medicine and biotechnology at university".