This lesson uses multiple activities, which engage students in learning about current genetic research and the ethical implications of this research.

Three 90 minute periods

Students will:

  • Develop an operational definition of perception.
  • Identify the background genetics involved in the human genome.
  • Brainstorm advantages and disadvantages to this new knowledge.
  • Identify the steps involved in making ethical decisions.
  • Research expert's opinions on the ethical implications of mapping the human genome.
  • Prepare a simulation that addresses the information they have gained in the previous objectives.
  • Write a case study that addresses an ethical dilemma in genetic research.
Overhead of young woman/old woman sketch
Internet access
Post-It notes
Large sheets of butcher paper
Black markers
Word processing software and printer

Part 1: Engage
1. On the overhead, show the young woman/old womansketch.
2. Ask for descriptions. (Most students see the young woman first).
3. Ask if they see the old woman. (Hint: the young woman's chin becomes the old woman's nose, young woman's ear is old woman's eye.)
4. Discuss why different people see different things.
5. Develop an operational definition for perception.
6. Discuss what forces can alter a person's perception.

Part 2: Explore/Explain
1. Go to
2. Have students read the article entitled "The Inside is Out" to provide them with scientific background information on the human genome.
3. Give each group of 4 students a pack of 3" by 3" Post-It notes, a large sheet of butcher paper and a black marker.
4. Give this list of words to the students and have them write each word on a separate Post-It note so that there is one set per group.

Deoxyribonucleic acid
Nucleic acid
Genetic Code

5. On the butcher paper sheets, students should now construct a concept map using these words.

Use "Genome" as the top or header word. They should connect these words with branches and linking words on these branches, which describes the relationship between the words.

6. Have a couple of groups explain their maps to the rest of the class. The interesting thing about doing concept maps is that they can all be different and still be correct.

7. In the same groups of 4, have students develop an advantages/disadvantages chart using the information they garnered from the remainder of the article.

8. In this next activity students will be working in groups of 4-6 in what are called "Reading Circles". These are temporary; task oriented groups of students who have been assigned to read a specific article. It is an analytical approach to reading that uses cooperative grouping. Each person in the group reads the same article but is individually responsible for analyzing the reading from a particular perspective for more thorough understanding. Individual analyses are completed as homework and this forms that basis of a shared discussion within the reading circle.

Following is a list of possible roles that can be used:

¨ Discussion Director: prepares 3 to 4 general, but probing, questions for discussion. The discussion should be a wide angle one. This person also convenes the group, solicits contributions from each member and wraps up the discussion.
¨ Passage Picker: Selects and notes specific passages to read aloud to the group with a brief analysis about why these passages are worthy of discussion.
¨ Creative Connector: Examines the text for its relevance to personal experiences, current events or other books or readings from class.
¨ Icon Crafter: Provides a graphic insight into the reading. These may be cartoons, diagrams, flow charts or graphs.
¨ Essence Extractor: Prepares a 1 to 2 minutes summary of the article. Identifies key points and main highlights. Often serves as the reporter when groups report out to the entire class.
¨ Argument Analyzer: Examines the article for the quality of the evidence that the author uses to support the conclusions. Looks for evidence that is missing and for logical soundness.
¨ Word Wizard: Identifies (by page and context) and defines words and names, whose definitions may be ambiguous, or whose meanings are technical.
¨ Bias Barometer: Reads for explicit and implicit assumptions that influence the authors work.

9. Select the roles you would like to use and have students either watch, read or listen to the NewsHour discussion called "Genetic Ethics" found at

or read the Extra story at
10. Give appropriate time for group and subsequent whole class discussion.
11. Select one ethical dilemma from the article to examine closer using a decision-making model.
12. Individually have students analyze this dilemma using these 6 steps:

  1. State the problem in the form of a question.
    b. Assemble facts and identify all stakeholders.
    c. List all possible alternatives.
    d. List all values that affect the decision to be made.
    e. Rank the values from most important (or desirable) to least important (or undesirable).
    f. Make a decision based on your ranked values.
Part III: Evaluate/Extend.

1. Create a role play simulation. Have students listen to or read the article entitled "Gene Therapy" at

  1. Select and define roles. Following is a guide for possible roles:
    · Group for the issue
    · Group against the issue
    · Experts (usually scientists) possibly one for and one against
    · Ethicist (clergy, legislative subcommittee member)
    · Industry representative
    · People with stories that are personally involved in this issue
b. Allow students time to contemplate/research their roles
c. Present, possibly to another class.

4. After now having read all the articles have the students write their own case study. These should be relatively short (no more than a page, double-spaced). They should use fictitious names and scenarios that revolve around any of the ethical dilemmas involved in genetic research. When completed, these case studies should be exchanged by other class members who should then analyze the dilemma using the 6-step decision making model learned previously.


Science as Inquiry
CONTENT STANDARD A: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop
· Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
· Understandings about scientific inquiry

CONTENT STANDARD C: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of
· The cell
· Molecular basis of heredity

CONTENT STANDARD E: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop
· Abilities of technological design
· Understandings about science and technology

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
CONTENT STANDARD F: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of
· Personal and community health
· Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

CONTENT STANDARD G: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of
· Science as a human endeavor
· Nature of scientific knowledge

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