Tucson, AZ – May 10, 2011

Aside from providing families with endless hours of entertainment and debate, genetics and heredity are an important part of every student’s science education. Our genes are like little blueprints that provide instructions to our bodies and determine our physical traits. Humans, for example, have between 20,000-25,000 genes. Most organisms encode their genes on long strings of DNA called chromosomes, and there are hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of genes in each chromosome. In school, students learn about genes and patterns of inheritance by using Punnett Squares or other diagrams to help predict the likelihood of certain traits being passed down from parents to offspring. It’s a nice, visual way of keeping track of dominant and recessive traits, and of making sense of what can initially be intimidating material to learn.

The study of genetics has many applications for K-12 students. At the elementary level, kids study genetics to help understand where we come from, why we look the way we do, and why certain traits are inherent in some people and not others. For older students, learning about genetics helps them to explore concepts such as the selective breeding of animals and crops to promote healthier stock and medical research to help eradicate certain diseases and conditions. Just a few years ago, our genetics curriculum pretty much focused on Mendel’s work with cross-breeding selective strains of peas. While this material is still relevant, newer materials can offer additional ways to illustrate inherited traits in a fun way.

This week’s Joann’s Picks column on the Gateway’s home page, www.TheGateway.org is featuring three resources on genetics for various grade levels, each with a particularly fun or interesting twist that should appeal to kids. Peggy’s Corner examines additional resources for the hands-on study of genetics in a science lab. These resources look at genetics from unique perspectives, including the genetics of the Harry Potter characters and Dragon Genetics! Both columns stress the value of presenting topics throughout the disciplines. In addition, we will be featuring several new lessons, activities, and other resources on genetics each day for the next week on the Gateway’s Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TheGateway.org) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/Gatewaytoskills) pages. Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook so you don’t miss anything..

Discussions will continue on last week’s theme of Gifted Children on both pages. All of the weekly Gateway columns and resource selections are archived on the following blog site: http://thegatewayto21stcenturyskills.blogspot.com/.

Resources covered in this week’s columns include:

Traits Bingo
Subjects: Genetics
Grade: 3-12
In this activity, students learn about genetics as they play a Bingo game where they inventory their own inherited traits. One of the nice things about this resource is that it is available in both English and Spanish. This resource is a product of the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, which offers online activities, labs, experiments, and workshops for students, teens, and all others curious about genetics.

Bikini Bottom Genetics
Subjects: Genetics
Grade: 8-12
What happens when SpongeBob SquarePants marries SpongeSusie RoundPants? Students apply their knowledge of genetics to complete this worksheet to reveal what kinds of traits the respective offspring of SpongeBob, Squidward, Mr. Krabbs, and Patrick might have. This resource was produced by The Science Spot, a Web site designed by 8th grade science teacher Tracy Trimpe. The site offers science lessons, news, puzzles, teaching tips, and other materials.

Genetic Phenotypes of the Superheroes
Subject: Genetics
Grade: 7-9
Genetic differences exist in us all. In this lesson, students learn about phenotypes and genotypes, and that both the environment and our genotypes interact to make us what we are. Students will each research a male and female superhero and develop a list of physical traits and characteristics that these superheroes have in common, and also those unique to that individual. Students will then simulate a genetic cross of their two superheroes. This lesson is offered by TeachersFirst, which provides K-12 lesson plans and professional development resources for teachers. All materials on the site are reviewed by teachers.

About The Gateway to 21st Century Skills

The Gateway has been serving teachers continuously since 1996. It is the oldest publicly accessible U.S. repository of educational resources on the Web and the oldest continuously operating service of its kind in the world. The Gateway is sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and supported by over 700 quality contributors. The Gateway to 21st Century Skills is the cornerstone of the Global Learning Resource Connection (GLRC) which is a JES & Co. program.

About Joann Wasik- Author of Joann’s Picks

Joann is the Metadata Cataloger for The Gateway for 21st Century Skills. Her primary responsibilities for The Gateway include locating and cataloging standards-based K-12 lessons and activities for The Gateway, as well as writing the “Joann’s Picks” weekly column. Before joining The Gateway in 2006, Joann had been involved with numerous projects at the Information Institute of Syracuse at Syracuse University, including virtual reference with the Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) project; virtual reference competencies and education with the Digital Reference Education Initiative (DREI) project; and metadata cataloging with the Gateway for Educational Materials (GEM). Her previous experience also includes technology training and positions in academic libraries. She also conducts freelance research for business and educational clients. Joann holds B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English from Boston College, and an M.L.S. degree from Syracuse University.

About Peggy James- Author of Peggy’s Corner

Peggy received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from The University of Arizona, and continued on to earn her M.Ed. from the U of A as well. She has taught physical science and chemistry at the high school level. She is working toward her endorsement in Gifted Education, and has been actively involved in coaching and volunteering in Odyssey of the Mind and Academic Decathlon. She has a passion for teaching critical thinking and creativity in the classroom. She has done work writing, evaluating, and aligning lesson plans to standards as a curriculum consultant with the National Education Association Health Information Network. She is very excited to help create a collaborative environment for educators to discover new resources that will enhance their teaching!

About the GLRC

The Global Learning Resource Connection (GLRC) is a public-private collaboration which brings to fruition ongoing work between JES & Co., a U.S. 501(c)(3) education research organization, corporate sponsors and education agencies worldwide. Leading the initial corporate involvement are founding worldwide partners Microsoft, Cisco, Cengage/Gale, the National Education Association (NEA), and other leading corporations in process. The GLRC ties together several significant semantic web technologies developed through funding from the National Science Foundation and is designed to support cyber learning. The GLRC supports the implementation of the mapping of major collections of learning resources in systems around the world to the machine-readable expressions of the learning outcomes based on the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) modeling and technical framework. The work will implement the international linking of those resources through trans-jurisdictional mapping of learning outcomes by means of Semantic Web/Linked Data principles for teacher/learner access and use. For more information about the GLRC, contact Terry Smithson at TerryS@JESandCo.org or visit us www.JESandCo.org.

About JES & Co.

JES & Co., a publicly funded 501(c) (3) education research organization, is a leader in research and deployment of education programs based on open standards. With 20 years of experience in interoperability and portability of educational resources, organizations around the world come to JES & Co. for leadership and guidance on education programs and initiatives. Since its establishment in the early 1990s, JES & Co. has led and managed The Achievement Standards Network (ASN), The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Gateway to 21st Century Skills (formerly known as GEM), the Dell Academy, the Intel Student Certification Program, and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. For more information about JES & Co. or the Global Learning Resource Connection, visit www.JESandCo.org.

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