|Genome Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
DOE Human Genome Program Contractor-Grantee Workshop
Maureen Munn and Leroy Hood
Department of Molecular Biotechnology, University of Washington, Box 352145, Seattle, WA 98195
The discovery that DNA is the information molecule of living organisms is one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century and is critical to our understanding of inheritance, development, biodiversity and evolution. Advances in genetics, molecular biology and biotechnology have revolutionized biological research, medicine, agriculture and manufacturing, and will continue to do so in the 21st Century. Along with many benefits, genetic research and biotechnology evoke complex ethical and legal issues that impact individuals and society as a whole. Pre-college genetics education should do the following:
The Ethics unit focuses on presymptomatic genetic testing. This module was developed by Sharon Durfy and Robert Hansen from the UW Department of Medical History and Ethics. The module utilizes a role-playing scenario to involve students in the complex issue of whether, as a character in the scenario, they would choose to be tested presymptomatically for Huntington's disease (HD). Materials provided include background information on the genetics, molecular biology and clinical aspects of HD, directions for constructing a pedigree and analyzing the laboratory data used to determine whether someone carries the HD gene, a tool for assessing student learning, and a teacher's guide. Students use a decision making model to assist them in making a justifiable ethical decision.
Our program offers professional development for teachers from Washington state and other locations in the US and Canada during a one-week summer workshop. Activities include completion of the DNA sequencing and ethics modules, presentations by guest speakers, and informal discussions about classroom implementation and student assessment. During the academic year, local teachers are provided with the necessary equipment and reagents to carry out the experiment in their classrooms. Teachers from outside the Seattle area can borrow equipment through the loan program of the Howard Hughes Program at Washington State University (WSU), while teachers in the Vancouver area are supported by a partner site at WSU Vancouver. Scientist volunteers from UW and local biotechnology companies assist during classroom experiments. This program is currently serving over 50 high school and college teachers in Washington State, as well as 20 teachers outside the state.
Molecular Biotechnology's Education Outreach contributes to K through 12 science education through a variety of outreach efforts. These outreach programs share several important features, including a strong emphasis on presenting science as inquiry and the development of partnerships between teachers and scientists. Genetics is an integral part of many of these outreach programs. For example, in conjunction with the Seattle Partnership for Inquiry-Based Science, Education Outreach presented one-week workshops on genetics and biodiversity for Seattle elementary teachers in the summer of 1998. The Integrated Science Partners, a Howard Hughes-funded program focused on the development of curriculum for middle school science teaching, has developed a module on genetics. We are currently coordinating a project called the Genetics Education Partnership, in conjunction with teachers and genetics professionals from around the state. The purpose of this project is to examine genetics teaching in grades K through 12, identify useful materials for teaching genetics at different grade levels and foster the development of genetics learning communities throughout the state.
Munn, M. M., O'Neill Skinner, P., Conn,
L., Horzma, G. and Gregory, P. "The Involvement of Genome Researchers in
High School Science Education". Review submitted to Genome Research.
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