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Developing a unit on biotechnology and DNA extraction

Here is an example of a unit of study that relates to the Michigan curriculum, generates interesting in-class conversations, invites families into the classroom and encourages students to talk about what they are learning with their families.

This unit can be taught as part of a broader study of DNA and/or during Black History Month. It lends itself to integration with social studies and English. The purpose of this unit is to teach students about biotechnology and DNA extraction. By situating this study in historical questions, it reinforces students’ understanding of the role science plays in solving problems and presents an authentic context for the study of DNA.

Here are some activities you could use in the unit:

Have students research the 18th dynasty of Egypt. There are excellent literature and videos on the subject. Direct students’ attention to King Tut. For information, go to the website http://www.archaeology.org/, and search for Tut. There you will find numerous valuable "Online Features." You can also use PBS's excellent web section, Secrets of the Pharaohs. These sources will help students learn about DNA extraction and the use of biotechnology in solving questions during this dynasty.

You could also do a similar project exploring the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. For information go to http://www.pbs.org/. Type in “Jefferson/Hemings” in the search engine and open up one of many articles on the historical ramifications of this possible union.

This type of study lends itself to parent lab days, student involvement and home study. It lets students see a direct link to their future involvement in the sciences.