Reflection: Modeling Understanding Genetic Drift (Part 1/ 2) - Section 4: Teacher Mini-Lecture: The "Mixing Vessel" Hypothesis


There are several ways that I support students in their development and use of scientific models. Students need concrete activities to help them understand complex cellular processes. I start with virology because I set up my course to study the simplest organisms to the most complex organisms. My entire curriculum for biology is based on model organisms.  The big ideas in ecology and evolution are nested within lessons about organisms and their life cycles. I feel this mirrors what actually occurs in the scientific community. Scientists first learn all they can about a particular organism and then see how that knowledge about that organism can be applied to other living things. It also allow me to show students how what we are learning in biology applies to real life.  

          At the beginning of the lesson, while I explain the structure of the virus, I build the model for students to see. Then I have the students practice building a model of their own. Next, I explain the CDC naming protocol and I apply it to the models that we just constructed. Students are immediately given practice in the naming protocol. Students need to understand the importance of the use of naming protocols in science. By using concrete models, students more easily conceptualize how scientists apply that naming protocol. They need to understand the difference between strains and how scientists name new strains.

Because the data collected is completely random, students can begin to understand the randomness of genetic drift. That is the power of this activity. Students can immediately recognize that the population of viruses is changing due to nothing but chance. 

After this lesson, we explore how epidemiologists track certain strains of flu using several interactive that are available to the public. Unless students understand how new strains are developed, they will not understand why it is important for epidemiologists to track the flu.  

 If you are unfamiliar with antigenic shift and antigenic drift, check out the following webpage from the CDC.

The Flu: How Viruses Change


  Modeling: Helping Students Understanding Models
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Understanding Genetic Drift (Part 1/ 2)

Unit 2: Viruses
Lesson 5 of 11

Objective: Students will use influenza as a model organism to understand genetic drift.

Big Idea: Are your students worried about new strains of flu coming out of nowhere? Use this lab to help your students predict next season's vaccine.

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3d influenza
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