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GENETICS: Integrated with History and Art

Maria Elena Robles

Type of Entry:

  • Genetics Unit

Type of Activity:

  • hands-on
  • group/cooperative learning
  • integration of art into the science curriculum
  • Integration of history into the science curriculum

Target Audience:

  • Life Science
  • Biology
  • Integrated Science (level 1)
  • Genetics
  • Special needs (LEP)
  • Special Education

Notes to Teacher:

Even though this project was team taught by team teachers, it is possible to use your creative juices and follow a similar format.

Required of students: a journal, a supply bag with coloring pencils, glue, scissors, tape, whiteout, ruler, pencil, pen, 1-2 poster boards.

Preparation time needed: for xeroxing, team planning, collecting and organizing materials and evaluation of student progress. A couple of hours for preplanning before starting the unit. A half hour after class, 3-5 times a week for class evaluation.

Class time needed: five to six weeks


A history teacher, an art teacher, a writer/artist and myself (a science teacher), worked cooperatively to integrate art into genetics education. The genetics learning experience was completed in five weeks by fifty Hispanic bilingual students. Many hands-on activities were conducted making the students' lack of English proficiency a small barrier.


What question does this activity help students to answer?
How is Genetics important in my life?


In history class the students researched and reproduced their personal genealogical family trees. They also learned about historical cases of genetic diseases. The students researched the topic of genetics in newspaper and magazine articles and presented oral reports.

In Biology class the students worked cooperatively in pairing chromosomes, created statistical genetic babies using the face lab, constructed a color DNA booklet and demonstrated mitosis in a flip book.

At times both classes met together as the artist/writer guided the students through visual imagery drawings and journal entries. The students described their grandparents, physically and emotionally. Once"babies" were created, using the statical probabilities, the students experienced a sense of gratification, responsibility and ownership towards their "child". The students wrote about their "child" and compared its gestures and physical traits to other family members. In their journal entries, their "child" reached the age of sixteen. The students wrote about possible future genetic technology and how that could affect them and their "child ". The students also evaluated a few case studies and then role played their decisions.

Many questions were asked and answered in the various activities: see attached file labeled "questions for activities" (2 pages)

Materials needed:

  1. Videos: The Miracle of Life by Nova, Hereditary 1 and Hereditary 2 by Britannica, Into the World by the Living Body series, The intricate cell by the American Cancer Society, Test Tube Baby by Bill Curtis.

  2. Chromosome pairing handout (distributed at BioGenoEthics class)

  3. DNA storybook handouts ( modified by M. Elena Robles from D. Jensen)

  4. Face lab handouts (distributed at BioGenoEthics class)

  5. case study evaluation hand out and list of values by Jon Hendrix ( modified by M.Elena Robles)

  6. Book: Case studies in Bioethics by Ronnie Yashon

  7. video camera for taping role playing, oral reports and sharing of journal entries.

  8. HyperCard: Genetics unit by M. Elena Ro bles: includes a true false test, a mitosis animation and a history of the development of Genetics. Sources of information and graphics are from BioGenoEthics class and DNA: the secret code of life by LIFE. Video clips are from Hereditary 1 and Hereditary 2 by Britannica.

Method of Assessment/Evaluation

  1. pretest and post test distributed by Jon Hendrix (used for data evaluation in the BioGenoEthics project)

  2. see background information, What question does this activity help students to answer? Assess their ability to answer questions accurately

  3. Assessment varied from one activity to another.
    1. An oral cooperative test was given to the 4 students who completed the DNA story booklet.
    2. completion of activities according to instruction.
    3. Ability to express themselves both in writing and orally.
    4. cooperation in all activities
    5. weekly quizzes
    6. quality of journal entries
    7. increased motivation and self esteem

Extension/Reinforcement/Additional Ideas

As an extension to the face lab, I allow the students to use cut and paste technique on the computer to make faces. The clip art was downloaded from Dartmouth College PUB directory/ HyperCard. Using the data of the face lab, students have the opportunity to use a paint program to draw a computer baby. Another extension of the face lab is to allow the students to match their mother or father genes across the Internet with another science class studying genetics. Students hand drawn "babies" are scanned into the computer and students word process their journal writings to make a printout of creative writings and original baby drawings. As a follow up, students have an autograph party, where student authors and artists autograph each other's works in each others printed copies.

As an extension to the DNA story booklet, students are videotaped as they present the DNA Story. This may be in English or in Spanish.

As an extension to t he Case Studies, students may form a survey and collect data from a number of fellow students. With these data, they are able to make computer presentations using data tables, graphs, and graphics.

As an extension to the research on the Hereditary Diseases, students create brochures and have a Genetics health fair where everyone shares a copy of their work with each other. A creative flair is encouraged in their writing and graphics to get their message across.

As an extension to the Genealogical tree, students take a field trip to the Newberry Library in Chicago to extensively research their Genealogy. Newberry Library can also be accessed via the internet. Another extension would be to have the students bring in photographs of their family members and scan them into the " Family Tree" software and create graphic family trees.

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