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11.2: Projects

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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The following Projects are an assortment of long-term activities that can be completed individually, in groups or as a class. We have provided starting points for research and development; you and the students can work together to create a more detailed plan of action. Consider the following two recommendations. First, because of the amount of work involved in a Project, students should choose one of great interest to them. Second, to encourage excellence and promote student-student learning, students should present their finished projects to the rest of the class, to the school and to the community, if appropriate.

Project 1: Research Questions and Action Projects

Project 1 differs from the others: it is a list of possible research topics organized according to some key ideas and addressed to students.

In assigning a Research Question or Action Project, we ask that you allow students to choose their topic either one provided or one of their own. You might also:

  1. Specify the length of the piece.
  2. Make clear the purpose and the audience.
  3. Suggest sources and ideas for information.
  4. Provide in-class time for compiling information and writing.
  5. Require students to exchange papers and provide written feedback.
  6. Provide a breakdown of due dates for the following stages: choice of topic, outline, rough draft, and final draft.
  7. Permit students to supplement a written report with a skit, piece of artwork, piece of music, dance,video, or multimedia presentation.


Provide the students with evaluation criteria that include:

  • accuracy of the content based on guiding questions.
  • clarity of writing.
  • effective organization of main ideas.
  • use of detailed examples or evidence cited to support their conclusions.

Project 1: Teacher Activity Notes - Research Questions

  1. The Field of Genetics This unit describes the field of science called Genetics. What is genetics? When did it become a discipline? Who were its founders? How do today's research questions, methods, and results compare to those of the past? In what direction is this field headed?
  2. Patterns of Expression Gregor Mendel is considered a pioneer in the field of genetics. Research his life. How was Mendel able to see regularities in inherited traits? How was his work perceived by others? How did the society in which Mendel lived shape his research and results? Would Mendel be able to conduct science in the same way if he lived today? Explain.
  3. Nature versus Nurture As mentioned by the author of this text, scientists have long argued over whether genes or the environment are more important in determining human variation. Pick one aspect of the nature versus nurture debate to research. What do different scientists say about the influence of genes versus the environment? How do their different opinions affect scientific research? Applications of such research? How society- government, education, medicine-treats different people? Is it necessary to resolve this debate? Explain.
  4. DNA and Genes In 1953, Watson and Crick constructed a model of the structure of DNA. How did Watson and Crick come up with their model? What other scientists were trying to explain the structure of DNA at this time? What were their contributions? Why was determining the structure of DNA considered so important? How has the Watson and Crick model of DNA influenced biology? The creation of new industries and technologies? People's everyday lives?
  5. The Microscope The microscope played an important role in the construction of Sutton's theory of chromosomes. Research the history of the microscope. Who invented the microscope? Why? How has this piece of technology been used by scientists over time? What does the microscope prove about the relationship between science and technology? How has your knowledge of the importance of the microscope changed as a result of your research?
  6. Jumping Genes Scientists have discovered that most organisms, if not all, have “jumping genes” that can move from one DNA molecule to another within the nucleus. What do scientists think the function of these jumping genes might be? How do jumping genes help scientists' gain more knowledge about human diseases? Who was the first scientist to explain the presence of jumping genes? How did the scientific world first react to this scientist's findings? Why?
  7. Making Proteins Inside and Outside Cells Scientists are able to make proteins in test tubes through a process called in vitro translation. How do scientists make proteins outside a cell? For what are such proteins used? Explain.
  8. Gene Function Interview someone in your community who breeds animals or plants. Then, research this area in greater detail. How is the science of genetics used in breeding plants and animals? What are some benefits and drawbacks of breeding?
  9. Human Blood Types Humans have a variety of blood types. Use reference books and the Internet to prepare a report that includes the names of these blood types, how they are inherited and how they differ from one another. What is your blood type? Can you determine your parents' blood types from your own? Why is blood type important?
  10. Genetic Applications Research a genetic disorder like cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, Huntington's disease, sickle-cell anemia, or one of your choice. How is the disease identified? What kinds of people get this disease? What are its effects? How is it treated? What research is being conducted to prevent and/or cure this disease? Is trying to eliminate this disease a worthwhile effort? Explain.
  11. The Human Genome Project Research the Human Genome Project. Who funds this project? Why? What are its goals? What kinds of research do scientists working on this project perform? Is the quest for a map of the human genome a worthwhile goal? Would money be better spent elsewhere? Do you support the project?
  12. A Genetic Engineering Change Research one genetic engineering technology. When was this technology developed? To what use is it put? Do you consider such a technology worthwhile? Does it have troubling political or moral implications?
  13. Genetic Engineering Read newspaper and magazine articles about genetic engineering published in recent years. What are some of the major themes in these articles? Examples include the promise of technological innovation, the prospect or absence of financial profits, and health concerns. Do articles in science magazines treat news about genetics differently than other publications? According to these articles, is genetic engineering a good thing? Explain.

Project 2: Teacher Activity Notes - Careers in Genetics

Summary Students work in groups to research careers in genetics and genetic engineering. They then present a summary of a day in the life of a person with their chosen career.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Social Studies, Health

Estimated Time

One week to collect information on the chosen occupation, prepare questions, and conduct interviews

One week to create and perform presentations

Student Materials

Contact names and phone numbers of professionals in occupations related to genetics; Internet access

Teacher Materials

None required

Advanced Preparation

To help students start their research, locate several people with careers in genetics who are willing to be interviewed for this project.


  • Presentation describing what is involved in a particular career in genetics
  • List of research questions or interview questions
  • Summaries from interviews performed
  • Research papers (Optional)


Step 1 Divide students into groups and have each group pick a career related to genetics. Examples include a geneticist, genetic counselor, genetic engineer, animal breeder, forensics lab technician, and an agriculture specialist.

Step 2 If possible, have each member of the group conduct one of the following:

a. Interview a career counselor to determine what education/ training is required to enter this profession.

b. Interview a person in this occupation to discover his or her thoughts about the job. Go to the interview with a set of questions prepared by the group. Phone interviews are also effective.

c. Shadow a person in this occupation for a half day or day. What does he or she do? When? Where? How? Why?

d. Interview several people that interact with members of this profession. For example, talk to a patient of a genetic counselor. How do people in this occupation influence the lives of others? How do they help those with whom they come in contact?

Require that students record their research or interview questions and answers as they gather information.

Step 3 Have each group create a presentation using visuals, pictures, dialogues, descriptions, videos, or audios. They should describe accurately and completely what their group learned about the career they chose to study.

Note: Because this activity requires members of a group to share and synthesize information, provide students with time in class as well as a structure for sharing information. You may also assign students individual papers that describe their specific assignment and results.


Use the presentations and the written reports to assess if students can

  • design interview and research questions that reflect their knowledge of genetics
  • demonstrate organized, thorough research skills by efficiently using the resources available to them.
  • present a concise but thorough explanation of what the career involves, what educational background or qualifications are needed, and how this career contributes to our society.

Project 3 Teacher Activity Notes - A Lesson in Genetics

Summary Students use their knowledge of genetics to design and teach a lesson or read a new children's book to elementary school children.

Interdisciplinary Connection


Estimated Time

One week to brainstorm and prepare a lesson or write a children's book

One week to make presentations to younger classes and to write an evaluation of their performance

Student Materials

Reference books; construction paper, cardboard or tag board for book covers; colored pens, pencils, or crayons; props for lesson

Teacher Materials

None req uired

Advanced Preparation

One to two weeks prior to starting this project, contact teachers at a local elementary school to make sure your students can actually teach the unit to young students. This project may fulfill public/community service requirements in those schools that have them.


Presentations made to younger students or children's book.


Step 1 Divide students into groups and have them brainstorm questions they think children in the second and/or third grade may have about genetics. Young children often have many questions about genes and how they are passed on. Why do I have brown eyes? How come some people are twins? Why am I color-blind but my sister is not? Why are some people born with diseases?

They should keep in mind that the younger students may not know the vocabulary or the science behind genes.However, they still have plenty of questions about themselves and how they are similar to or different from one another.

Step 2 Tell students to pick those questions which can be grouped together to form a skit or children's story, for example; “Why puppies from the same litter can be different colors.” Each group must conduct any necessary research and write a script or story with props or visuals.

Step 3 Allow students to spend two to three class periods preparing their presentations or books.

Step 4 The product will be more meaningful if students can actually present or give their books to the elementary children personally. Make all arrangements for students to conduct their lesson. Schedule blocks of time with the second or third grade teachers who are convenient for everyone. Arrange for transportation to and from the elementary school. If it is not possible to arrange a field trip, have students present their products to each other and then send the books or lesson to an elementary school teacher-they will certainly be appreciated!

Suggested Follow-up Activities

Other students in the school may be interested in learning more about genetics. Students can revise their book or lesson to present it to an older audience.


Use the completed lesson or book and the group work to assess if students can

  • identify major concepts in the study of genetics.
  • design an organized, creative, content-based story or lesson that explains one or more of the basic concepts in genetics.
  • present an organized, creative, and appropriate lesson or story to an audience.

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