Reflection: Grappling with Complexity Understanding Genetic Drift (Part 2 of 2) - Section 3: Elaborate


Since this is the beginning of the year, some students may really struggle with how to organize the large amount of data that they have collected. This is especially true when you start combining all of the classroom data to help students determine any patterns one might see in the data. 

As the teacher/facilitator, I can help by talking students through how I would organize all of the classroom data. Many of my students are visual learners so I encourage students to highlight the yarn colors of both the HA and NA proteins as shown in the student work sample. Using this method helps students see the trends in the data better. The colors on the page make the trends more apparent because students see a global picture of how many of each of the proteins are present.  

Another data organization method I model is a naming protocol. I introduce the reasoning behind the naming protocol that epidemiologists use for variant viruses. Typically, the majority of the class think that using this protocol is a great idea. On the student handout, I ask students to provide a key so that can understand why they are using numbers instead of colors.  

A third way of scaffolding is to create additional graphic organizers that include all of the variants found in a particular generation. Then students just tally the number of occurrences of variant viruses in each generation. This is also shown on the sample student work

Many students feel that only having 3 replicates for this activity is necessary. While we are analyzing the data, I pay special attention to addressing this immature understanding. I briefly summarize basic statistical methods and explain that larger sample groups lead to more certainty that differences within experimental group is due to the experimental treatment rather than chance. Many times, I will use a sports analogy of shooting free throws. If a new student gets 2 out of 3 free throws in the basket, would they consider that person a good basketball player? I bring up that they only missed one shot. Someone in my class typically brings up that the new student only shot with 66% accuracy.  Then I ask my students what if they watched that new student get 99 out of 100 free throws. What would they think now?  

Finally, as we sort the data, I discuss how quickly viruses can mutate and how this is a great adaptation for survival. As a class, we determine how many of the variants have particular HA and NA proteins in their protein coat, then we determine the frequency of each protein within the population. After students have completed this entire process, I talk with them about the process of natural selection.


  Providing Scaffolding to Help with Data Disaggregation
  Grappling with Complexity: Providing Scaffolding to Help with Data Disaggregation
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Understanding Genetic Drift (Part 2 of 2)

Unit 2: Viruses
Lesson 6 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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