May’s Resource of the Month is the new Teach.Genetics site of the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC). The home page [http://teach.genetics.utah.edu] features their mission: “We help teachers help students understand science,” and their resources bear this out. The website is free for public use, with colorful and useful tools and information to support educators in the biosciences, genetics, and health. Several of the currently featured Curriculum Modules focus on genetics: One examines the Human Microbiome, another offers a basic Introduction to Heredity, and the third introduces students (and perhaps teachers, as well) to the genetics of Pigeon Breeding! An assortment of 18 diverse Curriculum Modules are listed on the home page.
The module, “Introduction to Heredity,” uses five classroom and three take-home activities to help students – and their families – learn about heritable traits. Among many activities, students take an inventory of their own traits; put leaves on a “tree” with branches for people having the same trait combinations; or track traits through three generations of imaginary gingerbread people on illustrated worksheets. Classroom activities are easily recorded on the worksheets, as are the homework activities with students’ families. Even pets grab the spotlight for a moment in “A Recipe for Traits.” Both English and Spanish worksheets are provided for this module.
Click on “Pigeon Breeding” to open a module with puzzles based on Mendelian and molecular genetics. The Pigeonetics Game Teacher Guide provides a roadmap to 26 puzzles and concepts, and a well-organized spreadsheet that lists each puzzle’s goal phenotype, steps for solving it, and core concepts such as “the meaning of partial dominance.” A Pigeon Genetics Worksheet offers students a structured template for recording what they learn. Colorful and quirky images enliven the Punnett squares or chromosome diagrams for each trait.
Another module, “The Human Microbiome,” includes a brief multiple-choice pre-test and post-test on the human microbiome, as well as companion activities and worksheets about the functions and locations of beneficial microbes. Symbiosis Scramble, a card game, clarifies the meanings of commensalism, mutualism, parasitism, and competition. And students can even learn how to culture microbes from their own skins: This module provides all needed information, including teachers’ tips for making inexpensive agar plates and a primer on Sterile Technique. Step-by-step instructions carefully guide students who are plating microbial cultures for the very first time!
The Teach.Genetics site was designed with maximum teacher input, testing, and guidance, and the modules attest to this thoughtful and informed origin. Modules discussed above range from introductory level to a rather advanced lab using sterile technique, but all of them contain well-constructed teachers’ guides with clear instructions; embedded links to other resources; organized and attractive worksheets that are easy to print out; and answer keys or guides where appropriate. If you’ve been looking for a genetics resource “of the teacher, by the teacher, for the teacher,” this site will answer your wish.
About the Creators:
Teach Genetics was created by the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC). The Center education program is part of the University of Utah Health Sciences. GSLC is nationally and internationally renowned for translating science and health information into forms accessible to non-experts. In 2013, GSLC’s website was visited nearly 20 million times by people from every corner of the world.