Learning about genetics is an important step in middle school science. Students have many misconceptions about genetics beginning with which characteristics are inherited and which are acquired. Students often think that their parent's environmentally acquired characteristics contribute to their own inherited characteristics.
The Project 2061 AAAS Science Assessment website - here is a great resource to find common misconceptions students have about science topics. Select the topics tab to find a list of content areas, the select the content you are teaching to find the most common student misconceptions.
The web quests created by the University of Utah are excellent overviews of genetics design to provide students with basic understandings. Students can proceed at their own rate through interactive simulations that lead them to begin to develop a better understanding of genetics.
In this lesson students will explore a website to understand the basic ideas in genetics. Students learn about DNA, genes and chromosomes, all found within human cells. Students will also understand that parents pass chromosomes to their children. The combination of the chromosomes passed from each parent are what give us our unique traits. (MS-LS3-2 Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.)
The cross-cutting concept of cause and effect applies to this lesson as students learn how the combination of chromosomes cause the effect we see in the form of our unique traits.
Students in Action
Why is it that you do not look exactly like your parents? Or your siblings? Maybe you share some traits in common. Do people comment that you have your mom's eye or your father's smile?
Why is it that you look like your mother but you do not share her taste in music?
I do not expect students to answer these questions. I pose the questions to start the thinking process. I want them to wonder about genetics so they have a need to know more information.
Today you will be exploring a web site to learn more about genetics. You will be guided through the website by a set of questions of questions. Answer all the questions as thoroughly as you can. This lesson is the foundation for our study of genetics.
Screen Shot of Web Site
Students will need to work through each of the sections in order to answer all the questions. The guiding questions are provided on the Learn Genetics portion of the web site. You can download the student sheets and answer keys here.
In this video, we take a closer look at what makes the website appealing to students as well as sample student traditional and nontraditional responses.
I use only the introduction of DNA Structure and Replication by Hank Green. I ask students to remember that we learned from the website that when DNA is unraveled it is about 3 meters long. Hank Green explains that if we have 50 trillion cells in our bodies, that unraveled DNA would stretch to the Sun 600 times.
I also mention to the students that the Hank Green videos are a great way to learn more about many science topics.
Our social studies department frequently uses videos created by John Green, Hanks brother. John Green is the author of The Fault in Our Stars, which is popular with students.
Frank Gregorio is another video resource for students. The videos with music are beautiful and inspiring.
ParrMr video channel includes songs with science themes.