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IMGALTTAG Volume V: Genetics and Genomes


A New Way- Through DNA!
By Virginia Hill
David B. Oliver High School

We are all afraid of the mad scientist. Society has been afraid of science since its inception. Scary fictional novels like Frankenstein fueled the fear in the imaginations of society for several decades. Humans have always been fascinated with the possibility of a half man, half something creature for centuries.  Movies like Planet of the Apes and X-Men keep the fire of fear burning at a subconscious level. DNA technology threw gasoline on the fire and ignited a firestorm of human concern over cloning and Recombinant DNA technology. This fear is indeed understood. We are constantly reminded of the “dark side” of mankind through the horrific events of Slavery in the United States and the Holocaust. However, we take for granted the tremendous amounts of “good” science that are studied and applied daily, like vaccinations, medications, micro-technology, and imagining equipment. These technologies have revolutionized the way that many diseases are treated and cured.  DNA technology has the possibility of unlocking the door to a deeper understanding of life and its origins. With this understanding we can march forward into the future with a better plan for disease diagnosis, disease treatment, and gene identification. Many key issues concerning gene testing and cloning are being hotly debated before Congress, the nations Court Systems, and Judges; students must be equipped to enter the debate at some level. Students must be offered a chance to examine the factual data and information regarding DNA technology.


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HIV/Aids Unit
By Elyse Karpa

This HIV/AIDS unit has been put together with the ideas of simplicity and validity. It provides vital information to the students as well as helpful tips for the instructor. It can be taught in its entirety or pieces can be extracted for targeted use. The activities are fun, educational, and leave a lasting message about sexual responsibility as well as hope for a cure to end this viral plague.

The unit is thought-provoking and targets the student's attention to the spread of this deadly virus. With the recent surge of sexual messages from various media, the HIV/AIDS unit will remind students that along with an array of sexual freedom comes sexual responsibility. The students need to stay informed and updated about various sexual issues. This unit will accomplish just that.


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Careers in Genetics and Bioscience
By Daryl T. Moore, Sr.

The goal of this unit is to help students research a career in the world of Genetics and Biosciences. You may ask; “What is so exciting about that?” Let me count the ways: Students will explore genetics and bioscience on levels reserved for college students and beyond. They will explore Ancient Ancestry: Where did life begin? The first human found took place some two Hundred Thousand years ago. The Story of Dolly, the cloned sheep. How DNA Evidence Works. Human Genome Project, which has legal and ethical questions. The drug industry as they look for a cure for cancer. The Human Genome project alone will touch just about everyone in one-way or another. This research will produce something not fully understood, but the rewards will be great, and challenging.

The fields that the Human Genome Project will impact range from engineering, mathematics, counseling, ethics, religion, law, medicine, forensics, biofuels, and journalism. If this is not enough, I challenge you to allow your students, middle school or high school to spend a day in the world of Genetics and Biosciences, and watch the light go on.


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Mosquitos, DNA and Slavery
The Application of Genetics and Genomes to History
By Robert Redmond

I long advocated the importance of including the role played by insects- borne pathogenic diseases and genetics in history courses. To this end students need to understand the importance of insect vectored pathogens in shaping the nature of conquests, philosophies, religions, and thus societies. Equally important, insect born diseases such as malaria is still a scourge responsible for debilitating millions and death of many more millions of peoples across the globe. It is an ever-persistent chronic illness that has shaped much of history. There is a great deal of gene research taking place to map the genome of the plasmodium that is responsible for so much misery. Moreover, gene research is cutting edge bio-medical technology that will help shape the course of the future. Coupled with these facts, the United States has committed itself to mapping the entire genome with the same heightened urgency that was applied to the Manhattan Project.

Medical, agriculture, and entomological research is posed to catapult society into entirely new realms, a “Brave New World” or perhaps an Orwellian society, yet to be appreciated or realized. Germ warfare, bio-terrorism, cloning and insect borne diseases are every increasing concern. Therefore, students should be made abreast of the juncture were biology and history intersect. Diseases have helped influenced the course of mankind. Exposure to pathogens have genetic endowed some races with various degrees of susceptibility to them. Knowledge of this confluence, intersection, these elements, should be rigorously integrated into the social studies curriculums.

I have done so in world cultures classes. By examining differences between epidemic contiguous diseases of the European explorers and the mostly endemic noncontiguous diseases of Sub-Sahara Africa, students were able to intellectualize the role diseases played in conquest and slavery. Students must ponder whether communicable diseases gave the Europeans the upper hand in the conquest of Native Americans. Did the lack of immunity to such diseases small pox hasten the demise of the Native Americans? The use of disease during conquest, was this a legitimate, deliberate use of germ warfare. What part did disease play in the slave trade? This curriculum will address these issues.


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DNA and African Diaspora
By Kevin B. Reid

This curriculum is design to give students a new prospective on  American slavery. Too often the biological and genetic constructs of this illicit period in American history is often neglected or not even considered. Today with a vast array of information at our disposal we must consider the biological implication of slavery. Students should be given a wider view of slavery. In doing so, the genetic implications should be explored, especially since scientists are now able to map the genome. “African Genetic Diaspora” is a cutting edge look at this phenomenon. This curriculum suggests that the spreading of genes is the ultimate aim of nature. To this end, Africans certainly have achieved this resulting with upwards of 100 million people of African descent in the Americas.

Students will explore a vast panorama of information concerning the spreading of African genes.Firstly, they will take an in-depth look at the relevance of mitochondria DNA and how it can be traced to the mother of all mothers, “Eve”. The research on mitochondria DNA has wide implications and questions the bedrock beliefs of race, color, and culture. Secondly, students will examine the extent of and machinations that insects and animals use to procreate, to spread their genes to the next generations. Thirdly, students will trace how Africans, from the dawn of time, created and added to the genetic mixture of the earth’s genome. By implication, with genes come culture and civilization. Therefore, students will note the spread of African culture to the American, using language, music, styles and the essences of life as jump off points. Fourthly, the chronicle, Alex Hailey’s Roots will be used to create an ancestral tree, lineage that extends from slavery in Tennessee to the shores of modern day Gambia. This is an important juncture for students to realize the confluence of genetic success and tracing these genes back to their origins. Fifthly, Students should be introduced to the possibility and probability that African genes were already here present in pre-Columbia American. To do so web sitesand other primary source materials will be used. The essence of this curriculum is to enlighten many people that horrific historical events can often be cast in light where everyone is a winner.  African American students should be made aware of their biological success in coming to America.


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Supplemental DNA Education: Fundamental Principles and Illustrative Activities
Raymond W. Zanetti

This unit is a supplementary enrichment for high school students in chemistry or biology. It gives background information on DNA, applications of DNA Technology in medical uses, and related ethical and safety issues. Students will have the opportunity to participate in discussion groups, individual and group research, oral presentations, demonstrations, experiments, and debate on these topics. Making connections between technological advances and student’ everyday lives will be stressed throughout the unit.


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How to Quantify the DNA Molecule
Erin Zochowski

This unit is intended for an eighth grade math and/or science curriculum, and could even be used in a high school biology or chemistry class as an introduction to scientific notation. The main focus is on size measurements of the DNA molecule, including actual lengths and masses of the base pairs, number of base pairs in DNA molecule, the number of base pairs per chromosome, and many more mathematical problems that arise when considering what is all of this genetic material that we are made up of? Further, when we examine our DNA, we see that there are huge quantities of it in our bodies, yet the size of them is minute. How do you deal mathematically with quantities so large, and also sizes that are so small? In Pittsburgh Public Schools, genetics is not a topic of science until high school biology, so specifics about the function of DNA will be limited, but can be expanded upon at the discretion of the teacher. Technology will be a critical part of this unit; graphing calculators are a necessity to help the students with the computation involving scientific notation. Specific topics discussed will be weights and measures, scientific notation, metric prefixes, and finally putting it all together with our genetic make up. This unit should take about 10 days, but could easily be longer by including more research and critical thinking assignments using the handouts included along with research by the students using the given websites.

Again, the depth of discussion of DNA function is left up to the teacher, for the purposes of this unit, the focus was mathematics, specifically scientific notation and metric prefixes. It can easily be modified to fit the purposes of a genetics unit in a science classroom. Many useful resources are listed that will assist both the teacher and the student in further developing their understanding of our genetic make up.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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