Joseph D. McInerney, Lynda B. Micikas, and B. Ellen Friedman
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), 5415 Mark Dabling Blvd., Colorado Springs, Colorado 80918
One of the challenges faced by the Human Genome Project (HGP) is to handle effectively the enormous quantities and types of data that emerge as a result of progress in the project. The informatics aspect of the HGP offers an excellent example of the interdependence of science and technology. In addition, the electronic storage of genomic information raises important questions of ethics and public policy, many revolving around privacy.
BSCS addresses the scientific, technological, ethical, and policy aspects of genome informatics in the instructional program titled The Human Genome Project: Biology, Computers, and Privacy. The program, intended for use in high school and college biology, consists of software and a 150-page print module. The software includes two model databases: a research database housing anonymous data (map data, sequence data, and biological/clinical information) and a registry that attaches names of 52 fictitious individuals (three kindreds) to genomic data. Students manipulate the database software as they work through seven classroom inquiries described in the print material. Also included is 50 pages of background material for teachers.
An introductory activity lets students become familiar with the software and dramatically demonstrates the advantages of technology in analysis of sequence data. In activities 1 and 2, students use the database to construct pedigrees and make initial choices about privacy with regard to genetic tests for their fictitious person. Activity 3 expands genetic anticipation, and in activities 4 and 5, students deal in depth with decision-making, ethics, and public policy, revisiting their earlier decision about testing and data accessibility. A final extension activity shows how comparisons with genomic data can be used to test hypotheses about the biological relationships between individual humans and about the evolutionary significance of DNA sequence similarities between different species.
External reviews and evaluation data from a field test involving 1,000 students in schools across the United States were used to guide final revision of the materials. BSCS will distribute the module free of charge to more than 10,000 high school and college biology teachers.
* U.S. Department of Energy Grant DE-FG03-93ER61584
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