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Genetic Health Forum (G.H.F.)

Tamsen Profit


Genetic Health Forum (G.H.F.) is a week long activity in preparation for a group presentation on a human genetic condition, such as dwarfism, Marfan's Syndrome, albinsim, Huntington's disease, PKU, or any other inheritable genetic condition. This activity is designed to encourage and teach students how to research and present scientific information on genetic disorders that occur in the human population. Students will mirror the efforts researchers go through to accumulate useful data and synthesize it into accessible information.

The teacher will present a list of possible genetic conditions to research. The students, in groups of three, will choose a topic to present at the Genetic Health Forum at the conclusion of that week. The students will also choose from one of three jobs: the Forum Delegate, the Research Reporter, or the Graphic Artist. This will be the basis for teacher evaluation of their share of the project.

Halfway through the week, the students will receive an invitation to the Genetic Health Forum, which the group members fill out with their names, jobs, and if any audio-visual equipment/computers will be necessary for their presentation. Then the forum is held the following two days and the speakers and visual artists present information, instructing the rest of the class and increasing their base of knowledge.

Type of Activity:

  • Research/data collection
  • Group/cooperative learning

Target Audience:

  • Life Science/Biology
  • Advanced/ A.P. Biology
  • Genetics/Biotechnology

Unit: Genetics & its Applications in the Social World

Previous Lesson:

The students need to have a basic working background of the nucleic acids and patterns of inheritance (Mendelian genetics).

Follow-Up Lesson:

There are a couple of options for following up this activity. One that works well, is showing students the video called "Lorenzo's Oil" and working in group's through discussion questions. The other follow-up is a higher level activity in which students think of ways the original mutation may have occurred in a population and why it was beneficial to have been carried along in the genetic pool.

Notes for the Teacher:

The level of your students will determine how complex a list of possible topics you allow them to choose from. A good guide is to do a pre-scan of the library to see which genetic conditions commonly show up in books and on the computer network system (Down's, Marfan's, Turner's, etc). This usually takes 40 to 70 minutes, especially if a resource cart of materials for the students to use, is collected during this search. If internet capabilities exist in your classroom, then additional information can be accessed through that system, and you may want to compile some files for reference.

Class Time:

This week long unit also works best if split over a weekend. It allows the students a chance to exhaust the school library and to use the weekend to go to the local city or university library for additional information. On a Wednesday, introduce the activity and have the students pick a topic to research (in some cases they may have one they wish to research). At this time also have the students determine which person is responsible for which of the three jobs (Forum Delegate: speaker, Graphic Artist: some type of media, visual aide presentation, or the Research Reporter: the writer.) and sign up on the teacher's list.

This step is very important if working with students who are of junior high age or are at-risk students, for it makes them accountable for their part of the project. This prevents group grading and it prevents the student from worrying about another member not doing their job.

In that same class period, the teacher will want to practice notecards and emphasize the importance of not plagarizing reference material. Regardless of which job the student has chosen, 6 notecards are required from each student. The graphic artist usually complains about not finding pictures, but an explanation can be given about how they need to know the disease before they can put together a visual presentation about it. To keep students on task, three to four notecards should be due at the end of each class period in the library, stamped and returned to the students for continued use, but then turned in at the final presentation.


  • Signs and posters should be placed around the room announcing that "G.H.F. is coming soon!" for a few days before this activity. This builds excitement and makes the students wonder what the mystery is about. A podium is usually required for the 2 day forum held during class, and it may be decorated with "health organizations" that are advertising by sponsoring the forum (Blue Stone, like a rock where there for life's mishaps or "Name-of-the-School" Pharmaceutics Inc.).

  • Notecards can made from the pieces of scratch paper lying around the copy room. Simply cut into halves and follow the format below. This format also increases the success rate of the students who are responsible for the bibliographies. The students' will construct these by themselves, or the teacher may make a printed form so they can fill in the information from the source:
    • Source Title
    • Author
    • � & Publisher
    • Page #
    • Student's Name
    • Date
    • Class Period
    (This can be lined or unlined space for the student's notes.)


A useful tool is to decide which aspects of the report, speech, and visual aide you are going to focus on, and make a grading sheet ahead of time, using a scale of 10 points for each category. The number of categories can help to determine the overall point value, usually between 40 and 60 points. A brief example of the layout for the speaker is below.

Delegate's Name:
Score: / 60

Good verbal communication, loud, clear enough to hear:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Covered the symptoms and conditions of the disorder:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Identified the pattern of inheritance, explained it clearly:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Described the future of the condition, any treatments:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Notecards on time (all on time):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Overall presentation:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10>

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