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Genetics and Society High School Science Education Outreach

Principal Investigator(s): Linda L. McCabe, Ph.D
Genetics and Society High School Science Education Outreach

 UCLA in LA Grant for Genetics and Society High School Science Education Outreach

Investigators: Linda L. McCabe, Ph.D, Erica Stanley, J.D., Tony Huynh, Jessica Martinez, Jillian Theil, Jennifer Truong, Elani Streja, M.P.H., and Edward R.B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D.
                                                                                       [middle image credit: Matt Forsythe “Epigenetics”]

Can we use ethical dilemmas to provide the context to teach genetic principles to high school students?

The UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics (ISG) attempts to anticipate the impact of developments in genetics on individuals and groups. ISG is intensely cross-disciplinary, and currently includes faculty members and students from seven professional schools, 29 departments, and three of the four instructional divisions of the College. ISG developed an undergraduate minor in Society and Genetics and one of the required courses is DNA: Promise and Peril (based on the McCabes’ book by that title), which describes how genetics impacts your daily life. Our objective was to determine if we could develop team teaching materials for ninth grade students. Methods: UCLA in LA provided grant funding and an introduction to Ms. Woods,

Principal, King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science. Ms. Woods welcomed us to her school and introduced us to three of her teachers: Ms. Kong (Life Skills); Ms. Reyes (Biology); and Mr. Zajc (Health). Ms. Kong and Ms. Reyes worked with us the first semester, and Ms. Reyes and Mr. Zajc worked with us the second semester.  The UCLA team developed eleven, 90 minute discussions.  The King/Drew teachers worked with the UCLA team to select appropriate activities for their class.  Topics included: DNA forensics; epigenetics; pharmocogenomics; genetic discrimination; newborn screening; genetic bottlenecks; sample ownership; near relative DNA forensic testing; ancestry; gender testing; and designer babies. The students were actively and enthusiastically engaged by the debates, discussion questions, games, plays, powerpoints, videos, and writing exercises.  Ninth graders are able to master genetic concepts and consider the impact of genetics in their lives. The stories we used provided a context for the science and encouraged the students to apply genetics to their own experience.