Genomics and Human Identity, an exciting new teaching resource for grades 7-12, was inspired by the museum exhibit Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code and developed with support from the Promega Corporation. This free classroom resource – Lesson 1 of a developing series – includes an informative and clearly written teacher’s manual, engaging student handouts, and supplementary PowerPoint slides.
The two activities in this lesson encourage students to observe and draw conclusions about the structure and function of the human genome – whether demonstrated by the curl of person’s tongue, the shape of their ear lobes, or in the invisible sequences of their DNA.
The first interactive activity focuses on the occurrence of four visible human traits. Students will launch their own inquiries: surveying their classmates, identifying which group they belong to, and discussing how they resemble or differ from others in their trait-defined group.
In a second activity, students work together to identify small differences in long DNA sequences from two individuals. This exercise leads naturally to discussing variations in DNA – insertions, deletions, single nucleotide changes – that underlie human differences, as well as the high similarity of DNA in close relatives and even among all humans (99.5% identical).
This is the first lesson in a series on DNA and Human Identity. Starting with the survey of real people, whose photos bring the results alive, students learn to identify these traits in themselves and others and to see how “different” people may belong to the same group defined by these four traits.
Pairing an activity on visible traits with one on DNA variation helps students grasp the link between human diversity and DNA sequences. Both activities share the theme that the differences are surprisingly small – and, whatever their surface appearance, people are far more alike than different. This lesson can stimulate discussions ranging from physical traits, to genetics, to human identity, and far beyond!
About the Creator:
This inquiry-based lesson on Genomics and Human Identity is one of a series created by the National Human Genome Research Institute with support from the Promega Corporation and inspired by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History exhibit Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code. NHGRI developed this resource to bring genome research featured in the exhibit into classrooms and other venues nationwide.