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Genes-R-Us: or, Real Genetics For Real Students

Richard Benz
1994 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


Teacher Introduction

Genetics and genetic counseling-a study of garden peas and fruit flies? How can the modern student relate to the classic principles of genetics? Do the frequencies associated with flower colors excite your average high school students? Probably not! How about forming a genetic counseling agency with your students and "service" the entire senior class during their "marriage project" in senior health?

Genetic counseling can be used to introduce students to basic genetics, an important interface of the biological sciences and the human condition. Many high schools throughout the U.S. have "marriage" or family living programs in which students are randomly paired early in the school year. They work to plan a wedding, a household budget that includes rent, car bills, food bills (all the things that pop up very quickly once you are "out on your own"), and a future family. It is this future family that attracted my attention a few years back. The students were randomly given a baby to care for (the baby was either an uncooked egg or a five pound sack of flour) This care includes feeding, cleaning, baby sitting, and all the worries and bills associated with the new responsibility of a family. This is a perfect time to introduce human genetics to the soon-to-be parents. Hence, GENES-R-US!


Background Information

GENES-R-US is a genetic counseling service created and designed by a high school biology class and offered to high school health class (or home economics class) "couples expecting a child" as part of a family living project. The counseling takes place after pregnancy has been determined. (This is not always the case, but was true in the case of the senior health project and was therefore included in the brochure written by the biology students.) Couples who already have at least one child with a genetic disorder, couples who have a known family genetic disorder, couples who have a genetic disorder such as diabetes and want to know the chance of passing this trait to the child, and couples of advanced age or who have been exposed to a drug or toxin that may cause a genetic disorder in the fetus should subscribe to this service.

The project starts with a basic introduction to genetics in a first or second year biology course. The introduction to genetics starts with an overview of human genetic disorders (from information included in the biology text, county or state health districts, or other labs included in the 1994 Biology Module from the Woodrow Wilson Institute). Next, the students are introduced to genetic counseling as an application of genetics and genetic concepts. The PBS program "Genetic Screening" from the series "Hard Choices," along with the PBS series titled "The Secrets of Life" starring David Suzuki, is used to give the class a good overview of the role of a genetic counselor and the many difficult choices that arise as a result of heredity. The program reviews a number of human genetic disorders including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and Tay-Sachs disease, and so on. At this time the students are given the job of forming a genetic counseling service that will interact with the senior health class's family living project. The biology students are to develop a complete counseling service including a brochure that gives a general overview of genetic counseling along with overviews of many genetic diseases, visual aids (posters, overheads, HyperCard stacks, ...), and design a presentation that will be given to the senior health classes. (Students at Wickliffe High in Ohio have developed a computer program that is used by the health classes to determine the birth of the project's babies.) (See below for a description of the first generation of the "Baby Decision Maker" software.)

The students research information for their brochure and for the health class presentations from a variety of sources including: their biology text, health texts, government pamphlets, genetic texts, and interviews with local and national genetic counselors as well as national foundation offices that support genetic disorders. Once the brochure is complete and the audio-visual aids are selected and edited, the biology students set up a schedule for visiting the senior health classes. Prior to starting the project it is important that the biology teacher and the senior health teacher coordinate the project. Not only do two curriculum areas agree to work together, but the teachers must agree on a time of the year and on class visitations. It is also important for the biology students to interact with the health teacher prior to visiting his or her class.

The "Baby Decision Maker" software is written in Applesoft Basic (a HyperCard version is in the works). The program asks the student couple if they would like to subscribe to the GENES-R-US genetic counseling service. If not, the couple will "spin" for a baby only one time (actually, the computer is set up to randomly select a child). If they subscribe to our service, they get a second try if they want. Of course a second try is equal to having an abortion or putting the first child up for adoption and this is explained and discussed with the classes.

The computer is programmed to include the sex of the child and the following possible situations:

  • Normal Birth
  • Twins (Fraternal and Identical)
  • C-section Birth
  • Sickle Cell
  • Tay-Sachs
  • Hemophilia
  • Down's Syndrome

Of course, not every genetic ailment is programmed, but representative samples are included. If the couple chooses the GENES-R-US service, they can opt for a second chance. Whatever happens, the couple receives a birth certificate with the baby's sex and genetic condition. (This is for record keeping purposes.) The following are typical results from a senior class of 104 students (52 couples) that were involved in the Family Life project:

Typical Baby Project

  • Boy Births
    18 (34.6%)
  • Girl Births
    31 (59.6%)
  • Total Couples
    52 (100%)
  • Counseling
    47 (90.3%)
  • Twins*
    3** (5.7%)
  • Down's
    2 (3.8%)
  • Hemophilia
    3 (5.7%)
  • Tay-Sachs
    0
  • C-Section
    11 (21.5%)
  • Premature
    2 (3.8%)
  • Sickle Cell
    2 (3.8%)

    *One identical set of twins, two fraternal twins (boy/girl)
    **One set of twins was aborted due to a Down's Syndrome birth.

Included in this set is the computer listing written in Applesoft Basic which can be run on an Apple II, Apple II Plus, Apple IIe, Apple IIc, or an Apple GS Computer. Teachers may use the "Baby Decision Maker" software by simply typing the following computer listing into any Apple II computer. It can also be adapted for other computers. For information on how to do this, contact your school computer teacher or computer wizard. The program can be run by the biology students during their health class or home economics class presentation. If you have questions about this program, contact Richard Benz at Wickliffe High, Wickliffe, Ohio 44092, (216) 944-0800.


Genes-R-Us Baby Decision Maker Computer Program

(Applesoft Basic Version)
Written by Richard Benz

20 HOME
25 SPEED= 50
30 HTAB 3: FLASH : PRINT "WELCOME TO THE BABY DECISION MAKER"
31 HOME
32 HTAB 3: PRINT "BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE BIOLOGY BUNCH"
33 HTAB 3: PRINT "FROM THE WICKLIFFE HIGH BIO II CLASS"
34 HOME
35 SPEED= 250: NORMAL
40 VTAB 4: PRINT "THIS PROGRAM WILL DECIDE WHAT KIND OF"
50 VTAB 6: PRINT "BABY YOU WILL HAVE BY MENDELIAN PRIN-"
60 VTAB 8: PRINT "CIPLES DEALING WITH THE PARENTAL BACK-"
70 VTAB 10: PRINT "GROUNDS..."
78 SPEED= 50
80 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>;
90 GET Z$
91 SPEED= 250
100 HOME :VTAB 2: PRINT " PLEASE INPUT YOUR NAME (LAST) :"
110 VTAB 4: PRINT " " \, N$
120 VTAB7: PRINT MALE OR FEMALE (M/F) : ";
130 INPUT " " ;MF$
140 HOME
150 IF MF$ = "F" THEN W$ = "MRS."
155 IF MF$ = "M" THEN W$ = "MR."
157 IF MF$ = < > "M" AND MF$ < > "F" THEN 120
158 IF VL$ = "1" THEN 220
160 VTAB 2: PRINT "HELLO, " ;W$;" ";N$;" !!!"
170 VTAB 4: PRINT "DO YOU WANT TO PRESCRIBE TO THE "
179 VTAB 5: HTAB 38: PRINT " "
180 VTAB 5: PRINT "GENETIC COUNSELING SERVICE (Y/N) " ;: INPUT " " ;G$
190 IF G$ < > "Y" AND G$ < > " N " THEN 179
200 IF G$ = "Y " THEN M$ = "1"
210 IF G$ = "N " THEN M$ ="0"
220 HOME
230 LET N= INT (40 * 2 RND (1)) +1
240 LET N = N / 2
250 IF N = INT (N) THEN CH$ = "GIRL"
260 IN N < > INT (N) CH$ = "BOY"
265 LENT N = N*2
270 IF N = 7 THEN CH$ = "TWIN BOYS"
280 IF N = 19 THEN CH$ = "BOY & GIRL"
290 IF N = 38 THEN CH$ = "TWIN GIRLS"
300 IF N = 21 THEN CH$ = "GIRL AND BOY"
302 HOME : VTAB 12: HTAB 9 PRINT "DECIDING BABY TYPE-": FOR Z = 1 TO 2000: NEXT Z
310 HOME : SPEED= 250: PRINT "CONGRATULATIONS, YOU GAVE BIRTH TO A :"
312 FOR X = 1 TO 23
313 VTAB 12: HTAB X: PRINT "L"
314 FOR Z= 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
315 VTAB 12: HTAB X: PRINT " "
316 NEXT X
317 VTAB 12: HTAB 22: PRINT "L" : VTAB 12: HTAB 23: PRINT "L": FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
318 VTAB 12: HTAB 21: PRINT "O" : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
319 VTAB 12: HTAB 20: PRINT "R" : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
320 VTAB 12: HTAB 19: PRINT " " : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
321 VTAB 12: HTAB 18: PRINT "M" : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
322 VTAB 12: HTAB 17: PRINT "U" : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
323 VTAB 12: HTAB 16: PRINT "R" : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
324 VTAB 12: HTAB 15: PRINT "D" : FOR Z = 1 TO 50: NEXT Z
325 VTAB 12: HTAB 15: FLASH : PRINT "DRUM ROLL" : FOR Z = 1 TO 1000: NEXT Z
326 VTAB NORMAL : : HTAB 15: PRINT "
330 NORMAL : VTAB 3: PRINT " " : HTAB 8 SPEED = 1: PRINT CH$: SPEED= 250
340 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>" :; GET F$
350 HOME
355 LET V = INT (5 * RND (1)) + 1
356 IF V= 2 THEN 3000
360 HOME : VTAB 12: HTAB 5: FLASH : PRINT "CHECKING FOR GENETIC DISORDERS"
361 FOR A = 1 TO 1500: NEXT A
362 NORMAL
365 LET P = INT (45 * RND (1)) +1
370 IF P= 5 THEN 400
372 IF P = 23 THEN 500
374 IF P = 15 THEN 700
376 IF P= 40 THEN 600
378 IF P = 44 THEN 800
380 GOTO 1000
400 HOME
410 PRINT "UNFORTUNATELY IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT"
411 LET H$ = "CHILD HAS"
412 IF N= 7 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
413 IF N= 19 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
414 IF N= 38 OR N= 21 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
415 PRINT "YOUR " ; H$;" A "
417 PRINT "DISEASE CALLED TAY SACH'S"
419 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>";: GET F$
450 GOTO 650
500 HOME
510 PRINT "UNFORTUNATELY IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT"
511 LET H$ = "CHILD HAS"
512 IF N= 7 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
513 IF N= 19 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
514 IF N= 38 OR N= 21 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
515 PRINT "YOUR " ; H$;" A "
517 PRINT "DISEASE CALLED HEMOPHILIA"
519 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>";: GET F$
550 GOTO 6000
600 HOME
610 PRINT "UNFORTUNATELY IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT"
611 LET H$ = "CHILD HAS"
612 IF N= 7 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
613 IF N= 19 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
614 IF N= 38 OR N= 21 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
615 PRINT "YOUR " ; H$;" A "
617 PRINT "CONDITION CALLED DOWN'S SYNDROME"
619 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>";: GET F$
650 GOTO 6000
700 HOME
710 PRINT "UNFORTUNATELY IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT"
711 LET H$ = "CHILD HAS"
712 IF N= 7 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
713 IF N= 19 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
714 IF N= 38 OR N= 21 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN HAVE"
715 PRINT "YOUR " ; H$;" A "
717 PRINT "DISEASE CALLED SICKLE CELL ANEMIA"
719 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>";: GET F$
750 GOTO 6000
800 HOME
810 PRINT "UNFORTUNATELY IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT"
811 LET H$ = "CHILD "
812 IF N= 7 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN "
813 IF N= 19 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN "
814 IF N= 38 OR N= 21 THEN H$ = "CHILDREN "
817 PRINT "BECAUSE OF ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES, "
818 PRINT "YOUR " ;H$;" WAS PREMATURE"
819 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>";: GET F$
850 GOTO 6000
1000 HOME : SPEED= 250: VTAB 5: HTAB 2: PRINT "YOUR BABY IS HEALTHY AND FIT"
1010 VTAB 7: HTAB 2: PRINT "ONCE AGAIN, CONGRATULATIONS !"
1020 VTAB 20: HTAB 22: PRINT "<RETURN>" : : GET F$
1030 GOTO 6000
3000 HOME : SPEED= 50: VTAB 2: PRINT "DURING LABOR YOUR DOCTOR PERFORMED A "
3010 VTAB 4: PRINT "CAESAREAN SECTION IN ORDER TO DELIVER"
3020 VTAB 6: PRINT "THE BABY MORE EASILY..."
3030 SPEED 250: VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>" : : GET F$
3040 GOTO 360
6000 HOME
6010 IF M$ = "1" THEN 6500
6020 IF M$ = "0" THEN 6030
6030 PRINT "SINCE YOUR ARE NOT A MEMBER OF "
6035 PRINT
6040 PRINT "GENES 'R' US COMPANY, YOU CANNOT HAVE"
6045 PRINT
6050 PRINT "ANOTHER CHANCE AT A DIFFERENT CHILD AT THIS TIME"
6060 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "BYE !!!!"
6065 FOR S = 1 TO 2000 : NEXT S
6070 VTAB 23: PRINT " PRESS <RETURN> FOR NEXT CUSTOMER";: GET F$
6080 RUN
6500 IF VL$ = "1" THEN 9000
6510 PRINT : PRINT "YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO THROUGH"
6520 PRINT : PRINT "THE PROGRAM AGAIN FOR ANOTHER BABY"
6530 VTAB 10: PRINT "WOULD YOU LIKE TO (Y / N) " ;: INPUT "";YN$
6535 LET VL$ = "1"
6540 IF YN$ = "Y" THEN 220
6550 IF YN$ = "N" THEN 7000
6560 GOTO 6530
7000 HOME : PRINT "WELL THEN, HAVE A NICE DAY"
7010 PRINT W$;" " ;N$
7020 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>" ; : GET F$
7030 RUN
9000 PRINT "WELL, I HOPE YOU HAD LUCK WITH YOUR TWO TRIES !"
9010 VTAB 22: HTAB 30: PRINT "<RETURN>" ; : GET F$
9020 RUN


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