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Cracking the Code of Life

Ideas from Teachers

(Gr. 10-12)

Students will generate a useful set of notes summarizing the major points of "Cracking the Code of Life."



"Cracking the Code of Life" is divided into 16 sections online. If students are watching online, the divisions are clear on the Web site. If watching a videotape or DVD, the breaks are easy to follow.

For each section, students will use a given set of words to construct a sentence which summarizes that section. The section titles and word lists follow. They are in sequential order.

  1. Instructions for a Human Being
    • human
    • DNA
    • genome
  2. Getting the Letters Out
    • DNA
    • computers
    • process
  3. One Wrong Letter
    • Tay-Sachs
    • mutation
    • gene
  4. The Sequencing Race Begins
    • Celera Genomics
    • automation
    • genome
  5. Ramping up
    • Celera
    • Internet
    • data
  6. Genetic Variation
    • mapping
    • humans
    • animals
  7. Who Owns the Genome?
    • code
    • patent
    • research
  8. The Business of Science
    • income
    • science
    • business
  9. Finding Cures is Hard
    • cystic fibrosis
    • protein
    • DNA
  10. Complexity in Proteins
    • proteome
    • mutation
    • gene
  11. The Finish Line
    • race
    • Celera
    • genome
  12. Finding Disease Genes
    • Iceland
    • osteoarthritis
    • genes
  13. DNA Databases
    • DNA
    • database
    • chip
  14. A Family Diseas
    • breast cancer
    • BRCA
    • ovarian cancer
  15. Genetic Modification
    • enhancement
    • manipulation
    • gene
  16. Contemplating the Message
    • Celera
    • gene
    • chromosome


Students hand in a set of 16 sentences that summarize the "Cracking the Code of Life" program.

Classroom Tips

"Cracking the Code of Life" is an extremely high-quality video in terms of visual quality. If possible, use a video projector or HD-quality large screen to display this video with a class.

Sent in by
Kevin Koepnick
City High School
Iowa City, IA

(High School/Early College)
I have my 10th grade integrated science students watch NOVA's "Cracking the Code of Life" program. I ask students to pay particular attention to the segments on Tay Sachs and Cystic Fibrosis. These segments bring into sharp focus the human suffering associated with genetic disease.

Students use the Internet to research several genetic diseases. They then select one and prepare a brochure about the disease's causes, symptoms, and treatment. Back in the classroom, students share their information in small groups. Volunteers are encouraged to share their brochures with the entire class.

As an extra credit assignment, students are encouraged to read Frank DeFord's book Alex: The Life of a Child.

Sent in by
Gregory Tankersley
Huntington High School
Huntington, WV

Teacher's Guide
Cracking the Code of Life

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