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        Genetics, Genomics, and Ethics

Grade Level:

        Grades 9-10


Genethics introduces the social and ethical implications of genetic /genomic research and its applications to high school students. In this project, students will create web-based presentations that they will share with their peers. The students will build their presentation as a mode of educating the public and of suggesting the future direction of genetic/genomic research and its applications. 

Learner Description/Environment:

The learners are 9-10th grade male and female Biology I students that have previously taken a Conceptual Physics course and will move on to Chemistry I next year.  The learning environment is at Pine Crest School, a pre K -12 independent preparatory school, located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  The learning environments will include the Biology I lecture/lab classroom, the online computer lab located in the library, and the library itself.  All students will make use of their own laptop computers, as such, additional learning environments include elsewhere on campus and in the students homes.

Time Frame:

Students will complete the web-based presentation over two weeks and make their presentations during the third week class time. They will be given three class periods during the first and second weeks (totaling 2 hours and fifteen minutes each week) to work on their projects in groups during class.  They will need to complete approximately 2 hours of work during the first and second weeks out of class.  At the end of the two weeks the groups will present their projects to their classmates and give each other feedback.  The third week will be used entirely for presentations and feedback.

Learner Outcomes:

Learners will demonstrate an understanding of basic genetic/genomic principles by appropriately using terms such as DNA, RNA, protein, gene, and genome in their presentation.
Learners will identify current practices in genetic/genomic research.
Learners will explain the various goals researchers and those that fund the research are trying to accomplish through genetic/genomic research.
Learners will identify and evaluate the effects of genetic/genomic research and its applications on various sectors of society. 
Learners will analyze how goals, research practices, applications, and effects correspond to each other.

Structure of the Learning:


The teacher will present learners with a collection of headlines that illustrate the range of social issues associated with genetic research. (Genetically modified foods, cloning, "designer babies", transgenic animals, genetic testing in the workplace, etc.) They will also present a letter from a prominent scientist or ethicist that explains why scientists need feedback from an informed public in order to direct their research through these issues in a socially acceptable and socially valuable way. The letter will ask learners to create a web-based presentation that showcases the social issues connected to a particular issue (of their choice--not limited to the headlines presented) in genetic research. The presentation will be published online and may include suggestions on the directions that genetic research should take in the future.

Learners will divide into small groups and design an issue-based presentation to introduce the topic of genetics, genomic and ethics. Each presentation will focus on an issue and identify the research practices associated with it.  Learners will identify the goals/purposes behind genetic/genomic research and cite current applications. They will also describe the actual effects of the research and its applications, and analyze how goals, research practices applications, and effects correspond to each other.

During the creation of their presentation, learners will use and become familiar with the relationship between the terms DNA, RNA, protein, gene and genome. They will conclude their project by sharing their presentation with the other groups and exchanging feedback. The teacher will arrange for the web materials to be uploaded onto an appropriate web site.


Students will form interest groups based on their interest in a current issue in genetics headline they would like to investigate). Groups will consist of no more than 4 people. Each group will use a variety of sources to gather information about their topic. Each group must use the Internet to contact a researcher in the field of their topic, must include a bibliography with all Internet sites, news sources and all other sources correctly sited. The group presentation must be designed using Front Page, Dreamweaver, Netscape Composer, PowerPoint or some other type of web editor/presentation software.  The facilitator will supervise a portion of the time spent researching on the Internet or in the library.  During this time the facilitator will meet with each group to answer questions about the project and the content.  The student pages will include groups of links and various sources from where students might launch their investigation.

Potential issues to examine include:

the effects of genetically modified organisms on different ecosystems

the effects of genetically modified organisms on individual plant and animal taxa

the effects of genetic engineering on human health

the effect of genetic/genomic advances on privacy issues

the effect of genetic/genomic advances on forensics, criminal justice.


Learners will work in small groups to produce a web-based resource that offers information and analysis related to a current issue or topic in genetics/genomics. Learners will present their work to each other at the end of the unit.


Best Use of Technology:

Learners will conduct two-way communication with experts/researchers in the field of genetics/genomics.
Learners will use the Internet to obtain information about genetics and genomics that is otherwise inaccessible
Learners will use PowerPoint, Netscape Composer, Front-Page or some other web-design software to design their presentations.
The student presentations will be uploaded to School web site for use by others (teachers, students, public at large).


    Students will be given a survey followed by the first assignment for their journals that will assess the studentsí prior understanding and knowledge of genetic/genomic research and its applications.  The journal will be used throughout the project to record their reflections and questions they encounter.    

    Performance-based as well as traditional forms of assessment will be used.  Students will provide feedback on all presentations.  Rubrics will be available to the students throughout the project, and their input is encouraged. 

Project Evaluation:

One way to evaluate the effectiveness of the project will be to measure the student performance in the various methods of assessment.  If the project is effective then the students should be able to demonstrate that they have achieved the learner outcomes during the various opportunities for assessment.  Additionally, students will assess the effectiveness of the project by completing a survey before and after the project. 

Alignment with Standards:

The following National Science Education Standards will be addressed:

Teaching Standard A:  Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program for their students. In doing this, teachers develop a framework of yearlong and short-term goals for students; select science content and adapt and design curricula to meet the interests, knowledge, understanding, abilities, and experiences of students; select teaching and assessment strategies that support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners; work together as colleagues within and across disciplines and grade levels.

Teaching Standard B: Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers focus and support inquiries while interacting with students; orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas; challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their own learning; recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning; encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Teaching Standard D:  Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. In doing this, teachers structure the time available so that students are able to engage in extended investigations; create a setting for student work that is flexible and supportive of scientific inquiry; ensure a safe working environment; make the available science tools, materials, media, and technological resources accessible to students; identify and use resources outside the school; engage students in designing the learning environment.

Content Standard C: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of: the cell; molecular basis of heredity; biological evolution; interdependence of organisms; matter, energy, and organization in living systems; and behavior of organisms.

Content Standard D: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities of technological design and understandings about science and technology.


Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Author(s): Kimberly Noethen (knoethen@pinecrest.edu)
School: Pine Crest School, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 
Created: February 15, 2001 - Updated: April 18, 2001
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/genethicskim/present.html