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Inside/Outside the Human Genome
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Grade Levels: 6-8

Estimated Time:

  • 1-2 class periods for introduction and expert research
  • 1-2 class periods for teaching to new group and writing question cards
  • 30 minutes for inside/outside review game

Introduction:: In this cooperative learning activity, students combine a jigsaw learning technique with an inside/outside review game to learn about genes and the Human Genome Project.

Materials Needed
Teaching Strategies
Assessment Ideas
Extension Ideas
Standards Correlations
About the Author

Lesson Objectives:
Students will:

  • describe DNA, genes and chromosomes
  • describe the Human Genome Project
  • relate the work on the Human Genome Project to advancements in medical technologies
  • identify the ethical implications associated with the Human Genome Project

Materials Needed:

  • Internet access
  • A copy of Expert Questions for each group
  • 4 x 6 index cards
  • Written resources, textbooks, etc.

Teaching Strategy:

  1. Introduce the topic by having students take the quiz on the Our Genes/Our Choices Web site at http://www.pbs.org/fredfriendly/ourgenes/what_do_you_know.html. The quiz should generate new questions about genes and the human genome project. Tell students that they are going to divide into groups to learn more about such topics and then teach what they've learned to the rest of the class.

  2. Divide the class into 6 groups. Assign each group one of the topics below and provide them with the appropriate guiding questions. Note that the last three topics are more in-depth, difficult topics for students. It might be wise to assign students to groups based on abilities and interests. Allow them time to find answers to their questions, carefully monitoring their work. Students should be able to find answers to their questions using their textbooks and various online resources. One particularly helpful site is "Genome Projects of the U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science" at http://www.ornl.gov/TechResources/Human_Genome/. Be sure to let students know that the information they find should not necessarily be limited to answering the guiding questions.


    1. What is DNA?
    2. What is a chromosome?
    3. What is a gene?
    4. What is the human genome project?
    5. What are the medical implications of HGP?
    6. What are the ethical implications of HGP?

    Sites on PBS.org that might be good resources include:

  3. After students have become 'experts' in their field, it is time to re-group the class. This time form new groups using one student from each of the six different topic areas for each group. Each student then takes turns teaching the other students in this new group about the topic they researched. At this point, a quiz using the expert questions may be administered, if desired.

  4. The Inside/Outside Review: This is a review game that has all students engaged at the same time. It seems chaotic at first, but after the first round the students catch on and need little prompting from the teacher. Supply students with an index card and instruct them to create five questions about the human genome topics they just learned about. Write the questions on one side of the card and write the answers to each question on the other side of the card. Check the cards for appropriateness and accuracy before using them in the review game.

    Have the students number off as 1's or 2's or divide the class in half, in order to form two concentric circles. Have all the number ones form a circle in the middle of the room and face outside. Have all the number twos form a circle around the first circle. These students should face the inner circle and be directly across from one of the students in the inner circle. If an odd number is present, then the teacher should join either the inner or outer circle. (Have a question/answer card prepared!)

    At the teacher's cue, each student from the inner circle will read one of the questions on his/her card and allow the student across to answer it. (The asker of the questions can hold up the card while reading the question, so that the answerer can choose the appropriate response from the back of the card, if a prompt is necessary.) After the inner circle students each ask one question, then the outer circle students ask one of their questions. (All students are talking at the same time, so remind students to use appropriate volume.)

    After each circle has asked and answered one question, then the students standing across from each other exchange cards and the teacher directs the inner circle to take one step to the left. Then the process is repeated. Students ask one question from their cards, answer one question from the student across, and then exchange cards. This time the teacher may have the outer circle move one step to the left. Each student faces a different student and has a new card of questions for each round. Continue until the class returns to its original position.

Assessment Ideas:
Teachers may assess students' understanding of the issues through contributions to their cooperative learning group, a quiz after 'experts' teach their groups, the quality and accuracy of questions on cards, and/or a written test after the activity is completed.

Extension Ideas:

  • Make posters advertising the work of the Human Genome Project.
  • Explore the Our Genes/Our Choices Web site at http://www.pbs.org/fredfriendly/ourgenes/ and take the poll for each segment.
  • Research and write biographies of outstanding geneticists.

Correlation to Standards:

Correlation to the National Science Education Standards:

  1. CONTENT STANDARD C: As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of reproduction and heredity:
    • Every organism requires a set of instructions for specifying its traits. Heredity is the passage of these instructions from one generation to another.
    • Hereditary information is contained in genes, located in the chromosomes of each cell. Each gene carries a single unit of information. An inherited trait of an individual can be determined by one or by many genes, and a single gene can influence more than one trait. A human cell contains many thousands of different genes.
  2. CONTENT STANDARD F: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of science and technology in society:
  3. Technology influences society through its products and processes. Technology influences the quality of life and the ways people act and interact. Technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes that can be beneficial or detrimental to individuals and to society. Social needs, attitudes, and values influence the direction of technological development.

Note: This lesson plan is also correlated to state science standards through the PBS TeacherSource Web site.

About the Author: Author Viki Babcock taught biology and physical science for 5 years at Hannibal High School in Hannibal, Missouri. She is currently teaching biology, zoology and botany at DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Missouri.

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