Sunday, December 13, 2009

Family Trees Made Easy Through Surgeon General Online Tool

-by Dana Lawit

Not too long ago, Lisa wrote about joining 23andme, a website that allows consumers to purchase home kits for DNA sampling to send off to 23andme for analysis.
Recently, in our 9th grade biology class we've began our investigation into heredity and genetics. My co-teacher and I are always challenged to make the learning relevant and important for the students. While searching for resources we came across a site sponsored by the Surgeon General: My Family Health Portrait.

This tool guides users through the process of creating a family tree of your medical history. This allowed us to look at our biological families to see if we might have any predispositions to medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.. Wanting to be sensitive to the wide range of emotions students feel about their families and the diverse arrangements in which we live, we were clear to discuss that family has many meanings and can look like many different things. For students who didn't want to share information about their family, we provided a transcript of an interview with another family from which they could create a family tree.
After students created their family trees, they research specific conditions that ran in their family to learn what they could do to reduce their risk of illness.

The Family Health Portrait is a useful, relevant, and free (hurray!) tool for teachers to use with their students to explore heredity and risk factors.

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