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Students that live in the technologically rich world of the 21st Century must deal with the increasingly complex ethical issues that the 21st Century brings with it.  Genethics attempts to guide 9-10th grade biology students through an ethical analysis of some of the most controversial topics we face in society today.  In addition to conducting an ethical analysis, students will become familiar with the relationship between DNA, genes, and chromosomes.  They will use computer technology to investigate genetic technology and to bridge the gap between genetic researchers and high school students.  By the end the two weeks of Genethics, students will create a presentation to inform the public at large about current genetic/genomic research, the intended applications of this research and their own opinions about the appropriateness of the applications.

Beginning/Getting Started

Day 1

The teacher begins class with, " Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard quite a lot in the news about recent advances in genetics."  She then writes the following questions on the board and the class discusses the possible answers: 

Ö        What is genetics/genomics? 

Students are respond, "I don't know what genomics is but genetics involves genes and inheriting information that determines who you are or what you look like." or "Genetics is the study of your DNA and what it does."

Ö        How can research on these topics be used?››

Students say,  " You could look at people who have different traits and see how their genes are different." or "You could look at organisms and change their genes to what you want and see what happens."

Ö        Should the research continue?

Student responses include: " No, you can't play God." or "Yes, lots of people could benefit."››

Ö        Who should decide how this research should be used? 

Students say, "The government should decide." or "Scientists should decide." or the Public should decide."

This discussion serves as a preliminary assessment of the studentsŪ understanding and provides an opportunity for students to express their uncertainties about theses topics.  Certainly the students are beginning to build an understanding of the terms DNA, RNA, protein, gene, and genome, in addition to the particulars of the issue they are investigating.  



Day 2

The teacher asks the students to open their laptops, log onto her website, and click on the link titled "News Flash".  The teacher tells the students that she was recently reading the newspaper (email version of course) and she saw some interesting headlines that had quite a bit to do with what they are studying in class.  She compiled the headlines for the students to peruse.  The students start to browse the headlines.  The teacher asks the students to collaborate with neighbor and discuss what the headlines were are about.  During the five minutes the students have to complete this portion, the teachers walks from pair to pair and hears the students exchange comments like, " Wow, I didn't' know we could do that.", " This is dangerous stuff.", "I think this is interesting, I want to  be able to pick the sex of my child.", "This could really help my dad with his arthritis.", and "I am worried that I will get cancer like my mom."  After 5 minutes the teacher asks the students to make a journal entry that summarizes the collaboration they just had and to make a list of the top three headlines they find most interesting.  


The teacher begins a class discussion with the students by asking the students, "Why would the newspaper print these headlines?" The student responses include:  to inform people, to sell newspapers, to get peoples attention.  The teacher continues by asking the students, "Why would the newspaper want to inform people?" and/or "Why are these topics controversial?".  The students say, "The newspapers are informing the public because the people might want to use this technology" or " Lots of people can benefit from this".  The teacher asks the students whether they believe the headlines are true statements, why or why not.  Most students say yes, some say no, others say they don't know.  The day ends with the students being grouped based on their top three choices of headlines they find most interesting.


Day 3

Students are asked at the beginning of class to meet with their groups and to go to the project web site using their laptops.  The students are directed to click on  the link titled "Genethics Begins" at the bottom of the News Flash page.  Students see a list of links to such pages as a calendar of important dates (i.e. due dates for different components of project, test date, journal progress checks, presentation dates, etc.), resource page, presentation rubric, technology tutorials, journal tips, journal rubric, overall investigation rubric, citation instructions (internet, MLA).› 


The teacher tells the students to click on the links for Day 3 to find their assignment. They are to browse the website, make a journal entry and email any questions to the teacher.  The students explore the website, ask the teacher questions and begin to search form information about the topic they are investigating.  Some students express their confusion about what will be due and when.  The teacher meets with each group to highlight the events on the calendar and to discuss the topic they will be investigating.  

Middle/In Progress

Day 4

Today begins with the students visiting the Genethics Begins page, checking the calendar and beginning to work through the day's work.  Each group begins a discussion of the questions posted for that day's work.  The students are using Microsoft Word to record their discussion and to collect links to sites and summaries of the sites they find.  The teacher emphasizes how important correct citations are and directs the students to the link on Genethics Begins to help them with citing internet sources.


Students travel from internet site to site, sharing excellent sites within their group and with other groups.  At this point the students are focusing their investigation on a particular topic.  The students call the teacher over to show her great sites and to ask questions about information they don't understand.  The teacher takes the opportunity to call the class together for a brief discussion about where they are getting stuck.  The students contribute, " I'm not sure what these words mean." and " I have these questions about the research, but I don't know who to ask."  The teacher agrees that they need more information and that she doesn't know all the answers to their questions.  The teacher asks where they could gather such information.  several students say that if they could ask the researchers, then their questions might be answered.  The teacher directs the students to the link on "Genethics Begins" called, "Reaching Out".  The students draft and send emails to researchers and organizations that are conducting the research.  


Day 5

Students continue to investigate their research topics and are daily checking the discussion questions and journal entry for the day on their calendar.  They are instructed in each section to discuss certain questions.  The teacher moves from group to group listening to the conversation, asking questions, guiding the students to problem solve.  The students in their groups are also rewriting the final product rubric, giving their input and emailing additional questions to their teacher. 


Part of the assignment for the day is for each group to revise the Final Product Rubric and submit explanations of what each component should look like and should be worth.  The students email their completed rubric to the teacher.


Day 6

The teacher begins class with a brief discussion of what the week will look like.  Some students say " I'm not sure what we are supposed to turn in"  others, "What do we do if we are done?".  The teacher directs the students to the Final Product Rubric.  She says, "If you are unsure of what to turn in, you can look at the Final Product Rubric.  You will find a list of components and what needs to be included in your website.  Remember, you helped to design this rubric?  Also, if you think you are done you should review this rubric carefully to see if you fulfill all the requirements.  I would be happy to go through your project with you if you are unsure of where you are."  


The students then continue to compile the results of their investigation and integrate their dialogue with the researchers.  The initial outlines for the final product are submitted by email to the teacher.  The students in each group divide up the tasks necessary to complete the final product.  The students flip back and forth between the final product rubric and their projects to assess their progress.   The teacher moves from group to group asking them to show their work so far and to discuss further questions about their project.  



Day 7

Class begins today as the teacher asks the groups to share some of their successes and struggles.  Most students respond that they are making headway, but haven't heard back from researchers or they are afraid they won't finish in time.  Other students express concern that they don't know what the teacher is looking for in their presentation.  They say they know what parts are supposed to be there but don't know how they should present the information.


The teacher begins with the last question and answers, " You are suggesting that  you need to spend some time, maybe 10 minutes, writing up a paragraph or two about WHY you are making this website.  Recall our discussion about the headlines.  I asked you why they were being published.  You yourselves stressed the importance of informing the public.  So, as a group write out a brief statement of purpose that discusses why you are designing this website and why you chose this research topic to investigate.  Then you can pick the most appropriate format to present the information.  Don't forget to consider who your audience is : teenagers, adults, the elderly,  couples planning to have children?  Recall the discussion you had in your groups about WHO is impacted by this topic.  Regarding website design, you've seen a lot of websites, maybe there were some that you liked the design of, some that might give you ideas about different ways to present the information.  Keep referencing the rubric we designed to make sure you are on the correct path."


The students continue to work on their project using programs such as FrontPage to create their websites.


Day 8

The students visit the day's instructions on the calendar and follow the instructions.  Students spend the class time working in their groups to design their websites.  The teacher circulates from group to group checking their progress, answering questions, offering guidance. 




Day 9

The students visit the day's instructions on the calendar and follow the instructions.  The students make a final journal entry that serves as an evaluation of the project.  Students spend the majority of class time working in their groups to design their websites.  The teacher circulates from group to group checking their progress, answering questions, offering guidance. 


At the close of the class period, students submit their disks for posting to the teacher and are asked to review the Peer Evaluation they will be conducting the next day.  Their homework is to visit the school website and view their own work and the work of their classmates.


Day 10

The students enter the class and log onto their computers.  They pull up the teacher's website and click on the link to their work.  The teacher hands each group leader a card with a project title on it and a copy of  the peer evaluation (which was designed by the students).  The students work to evaluate the projects they have been assigned to.  The teacher moves from group to group listening to and guiding their progress.  They email their evaluations to the teacher who forwards them on to the group responsible for each site along with her own evaluation.  There are a variety of final products.  Some groups have designed public service style websites that showcase the information the students gathered.  Other sites are designed like game shows so that the viewer is directly involved in the learning.  Still other sites present case studies and stories to grab the reader.  All sites have lists of references and a way for the students to receive questions and feedback on their website. 


Student achievement of the learner outcomes will also be assessed using a traditional, multiple-choice and essay test.› The students will design sample questions that will be displayed on the website for practice.  A large portion of the student designed questions will be part of the test.  Students will receive one grade that includes their performance during the two weeks of presentation design and the presentation itself.Students will receive a second grade for their performance on the traditional test.  


Additionally, an online voting form will be added to all the websites that would allow the viewer to vote on the acceptability of each research topic.  Each student would complete the form and justify their reasons for voting for or against the continuation of the research.  The voting forms could be available to students at other schools and the public at large, really to anyone who visited the site.  The results of the voting would be continually displayed once someone submits the online voting form.


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/scenario.html