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Lesson Plans Library 9-12 > Human Body
Understanding: The Power of Genes image
Understanding: The Power of Genes
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Human Body Duration: One or two class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • discuss new scientific information about genes,
  • consider how that information is changing thoughts about human behavior and scientific research; and
  • write essays about how information about genetics affects private homes, the research laboratory, and hospitals and clinics.
  • Paper and pencils
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Computer with Internet access
  1. Begin the lesson by asking students what they know about new genetic research. Write their ideas on a large sheet of newsprint. Students may discuss cloning animals, using DNA in criminal investigations, or gene therapy for some types of cancer.

  2. Divide the class into groups of three or four students. Give the groups the option of focusing on one of the following environments:

    • Private homes
    • The research laboratory
    • Hospitals or clinics
  3. After students select a setting, allow enough time for them to consider how new genetic research has affected it. Students should be able to answer the following questions:

    • What is the focus of the new research?
    • Does the new research challenge earlier ideas? If so, how?
    • How can the new research be applied to the selected environment? For example, could the new research about human behavior affect how children are raised? Could it affect scientific research or future medical treatments?
  4. Give students time to conduct research during class. You may have them visit the following Web sites:

    Pure Research and Medical Research

    Genes and Behavior

  5. During the next class period, have the groups work together to create a report summarizing their findings. Students should include research to document their ideas and conclusions. If time permits, have each group present its findings.

  6. Conclude the lesson by referring to students' ideas at the beginning of the lesson. Have their ideas changed after working on this project? If so, how? What new insights do students have about genes and how they affect different aspects of human life?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students participated actively in class discussions; worked closely within their group to conduct research; and prepared a thorough, well-written, and well-documented report.
  • Two points:Students participated in class discussions; worked somewhat closely within their group to conduct research; and prepared a competent report.
  • One point:Students participated minimally in class discussions; did not work well within their group to conduct research; and prepared an incomplete, poorly researched report.

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Definition:The range of actions an animal performs, from finding food to protecting itself to mating to taking care of its offspring.
Context:Most animal behaviors help them survive in their environment.

Definition:Material in the cell nucleus that contains genetic information.
Context:Each chromosome contains two rods of chromatids, which contain key genetic information for cells.

Definition:Two organisms that have the same genetic material so that they are exactly the same, or an organism that is genetically the same as the one from which it was made.
Context:Identical twins are clones that occur in nature; Dolly the Sheep is an example of a scientifically produced clone.

Definition:A nucleic acid that carries the information passed from parents to their offspring; acronym for deoxyribonucleic acid.
Context:When the structure of DNA was determined in 1953 by two scientists, it was considered a major scientific breakthrough.

Definition:A specific strand of DNA that is responsible for a particular trait or characteristic.
Context:A major scientific endeavor known as the Human Genome Project has mapped each gene in all the cells in the human body.

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The National Academy of Sciences provides guidelines for teaching science and a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit this Web site:

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Life Science: Molecular basis of heredity; Interdependence of organisms; Behavior of organisms
  • Science as Inquiry: Understandings about scientific inquiry

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Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

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