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NOVA scienceNOW: RNAi

Ideas from Teachers

(Gr. 6-12)
To understand the steps of the scientific method and how to think like a scientist.


While watching the program, or afterward, create a flow chart that shows the steps scientists have taken that have led to understanding how RNAi functions in the cell. Link the steps with those of the scientific method.

End with a class discussion of the scientific method or a discussion of the quote, "The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them." Joseph Henry, American physicist.

Students will be able to correctly identify the hypothesis, experiment, and other steps of the scientific method from the program.

Sent in by
Margaret A. Jensen
Highland High School
Highland, IN

(Gr. 9-High School/Early College)
To help students begin to make a connection between biology and conception and human development.


Day One: Show the NOVA film "Life's Greatest Miracle." Explain some of the things that can go wrong in the reproductive cycle, making a distinction between genetic and environmental issues such as Down's Syndrome (genetic) v. FAS/E (preventable introduction of teratogens into the fetal environment). Ask students if they can think of any genetic or environmental influences on fetal growth and development.

Day Two: Use transparencies to explain the structure of DNA. Organize students in small groups to discuss how they think DNA knows what part of the body to become in a fetus. Have a member of each group report and write his or her best hypothesis on the board for the class. Distribute nature vs. nurture charts for students to complete individually. In column one have students fill in as many traits as they can that belong to them due to nature (genetics). In column two have students determine which of their traits were nurtured (environmental). In column three ask students to write down traits they are not sure are nature or nurture. Discuss their ideas as a whole class.

Day Three: Make a list on the board of diseases students are aware of. If a disease is genetic, put a star by it. Discuss the importance of research about genetic diseases and give examples of positive outcomes during the previous century. Using the NOVA scienceNOW "RNAi" video segment, show students the positive outcome from an accidental discovery. When the segment is over, organize students into small groups to discuss their understanding of RNAi and to hypothesize the implications for future treatments of disease. Ask each group to report its thoughts to the class.

When the unit has been completed students will be asked to write a reflective paper (2-3 pages) about what they have learned. The paper should include information on the reproduction process, nature vs. nurture, and how genetics and environment impact human development.

Classroom Tips
Students should read the portions of their text about conception and genetics prior to starting the unit to facilitate intelligent discussion and group participation.

Objectives, assessment, and expectations for group participation should be made clear prior to the beginning of the unit. It is advantageous to distribute a rubric for the student reflective essay on day one so that students will begin collecting thoughts from the start.

Editor's Note: To read an extended description of this idea, see Featured Teachers.

Sent in by
Dr. C. Miki Henderson
University of Wisconsin
Superior, WI

Teacher's Guide
NOVA scienceNOW: RNAi

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