Making Curriculum Pop

Hi There, I'm new to this board, so let me know if I'm to follow any particular protocol. OK. My question has to do with PBL. (Project Based Learning) Has anyone done any PBL lessons on DNA, Heredity, Inheritance, etc.  Please advise.ThanksAnna

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What about designing a Family Health and Personality traits tree - I dunno what grade you are working with but these lesson plan ideas could be remixed for your grade level. See...

This is the video they are is bi-lingual and that is cool..
Of course you could use clips from Gattaca or do some reading / viewing about designer babies if you wanted to talk about "new branches in the family tree."

If you have grant money - this Nat Geo kit is pretty cool to think about the role of genes in creating a family tree (that could be the project).
They also have a large set of educator resources worth checking out.

And you could also have students research traits that are tied to genetics and have them do - instead of a health tree - a family traits tree. This clip from NOVA "The Science of Picky Eaters" made me laugh-

Watch The Science of Picky Eaters, Smart Marine Mammals,... on PBS. See more from NOVA scienceNOW.

What I guess I'm getting at is the "tree" being the project and then you use high interest media and texts around whatever type of tree you decide to explore with kids. Then they could share / present their trees at a family history night when you invite everyone to see their research results / projects.

Also see the resources I shared at this older post...

Ryan, Fantastic thanks for the great links. I teach 7th grade Science & as I said our school is trying to get into developing PBL's . This will really help. Get it coming.

Hello, Anna.  Depending on the community in which you teach, this could be an assignment fraught with land mines.  Some students will be uncomfortable sharing this kind of research about their own families...for different reasons.  First, they may not know their heritage back for more than a couple generations.

Second, their families may have come to the US for sanctuary and would be in danger if more precise information is revealed about them and their whereabouts. 

Third, the background may not be something of pride that the students would be comfortable sharing.

Fourth, for African-Americans, like myself, who is 5th generation in the US, I know there are no records of my earliest ancestors because they were slaves. Many, like my early ancestors were born in places where legal systems did not require a record of their birth as humans.  Many Black slaves were only listed in the records of livestock.

On the other hand, if you know your community well, and are fairly confident students have access to the records to do this assignment, I encourage you to follow through. However, I urge you to include an option in which students could do the research about themselves or about a famous person who already is in the "public eye".  This way the students will have the benefit of learning the research, writing, and presentation skills, without the embarrassment of being embarrassed about something over which they have no control - their ancestry.

Thanks Anna... You're right.  I do work with different populations & some children are not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to only go back a couple of generations.

Genealogy although very interesting to me at my age, isn't that much of an impact on middle school students.

The research I would want my middle school students to investigate would be how genetics impact their lives now & in the future. I would like them to research how genetics is used in farming, medicine, police matters, etc.  Their future will definitely be impacted by the genetic testing that is done at this time. 

Thanks again for your insight on genealogy. 


Anna, Since your purpose in considering this assignment is to expand their understanding of genetics and the role it plays in their lives, how about focusing on the three areas you mention in your reply: farming, medicine, and police matters.  With all the news about GMO, cancer research, and CSI TV series, your students will have plenty to excite them about genetics, and you can avoid issues that could arise if your students were limited to writing about themselves.

If there is/are students interested in doing research, no need to forbid it.  Some of them may have family members struggling with genetic ailments and the family already may have begun this kind of background research and comfortable having their middle school student confirm and then share with classmates some of the reasons this knowledge can be useful.

You may find it useful to teach the students the basics, then let them choose the area most interesting to them and work in small teams researching the use in farming, medicine and police matters.  They could create a mini-documentary using PowerPoint slides or Prezi that include images, charts, quotations from experts, definition of terms, reasons why the topic is important to the members of the group, etc.  This could be really exciting!

To keep them from overdoing things, you could design a rubric that indicates the number of slides and the maximum delivery time.  I'd say 16-20 slides and 5-7 minutes for a group presentation, with each member of the group presenting information related to 3-5 slides (depending on the size of the group.)

Caution: In some religious communities this could be a touchy subject - messing with God's work.  Just be prepared should the issue arise.

Keep up your good work of making learning relevant to the students you have.

Anna  You hit the nail on the head!!! That's exactly what I was thinking about. WOW Great minds think alike. LOL.  Thanks for reaffirmation on my thoughts.

I'll keep you posted on the progress.  Thanks again. 

Not sure if this is what you are looking for, but I did this activity with my 6th grade class.  Check the website  There are instructions for a recipe for dog DNA.  The kids end up creating different dogs based on the DNA strips they get.  My students enjoyed this.

Anna:  There are many.  I have done on called "Family Secrets" about Huntington's disease.  It takes them through the dilemma of genetic testing and diagnosis.



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