As a recent subscriber to 23andMe (whose tagline is, “Genetics Just Got Personal”), I had to chime in. I know that personally, I never retained much of anything I learned in science class because little of it was hands on, and wasn’t taught in a way that allowed me to see how it pertained to my life in a way I needed to care about.
As an adult, when I heard about 23andMe I became extremely excited at the potential to unlock the secrets of my own DNA. As an innovative educator I also reflected on what a powerful learning tool this could be for students interested in this field. Of course there are cost and legal factors that are obvious barriers, but innovative educators don’t let things let things like that stop them.
For those not in the know, 23andMe was selected as Time magazine's "Invention of the Year” and was recently featured on Oprah. It allows you to access and unlock the information contained within your DNA. This means that you will be able to learn about your medical proclivities as well as your true genetic ancestry.
So, how can this be used in the classroom? Even without sending in your DNA for sampling 23andMe puts a lot of the study of genetics and ancestry into context in a way that is more interesting and compelling then what I ever learned in school. The website provides a collection of educational materials to guide educators and learners on a personal journey of genetic discovery. Here are some of the great learning resources 23andMe offers to enable visitors to discover the world of genetics.
A great place to start with students would be with the Variations section which highlights stories of famous people and how their genes affected them. This can be tied to an activity where students reflect on how they think their genes may have shaped who they are or will become. Here is a peak into what that part of the site contains.
Our genes help shape us from the moment of conception, but they are far from the only determinant of who we are. 23andMe's Variations series explores the human experience through personal stories of the ways genetics touches our lives.
Once you’ve peaked students interest, it’s time to get down to some details about genetics. The site has an area called Genetics 101 which features a variety of easy to understand animated videos. Here is what you will find there.
Find out about the basics of cells, chromosomes, and the genes contained in your DNA.
Learn about the variations in human DNA called SNPs, and how they can be used to understand relationships between people.
Find out how chromosomes and genes are passed down from parent to child.
Discover how your observable traits, or phenotypes, are the result of interactions between your genes and environment.
The site also has a connection to history and geography. This is a great resource for teachers focusing on history, social studies, ancestry, or geography. Here is what you will find.
Human Prehistory 101
These videos follow the path of our human history from the birth of our species in
Find out how our human story begins, nearly 200,000 years ago in
Part 1: Out of (eastern)
Africa (coming soon)
Learn how humans traveled out of