Modern Genetics for All Students

Grant #R23RR07573
Project site: Washington University, St. Louis, MO
This project is aimed at increasing scientific literacy in human genetics and modern molecular biology among high school students from all learning levels, by providing dissemination of the curriculum enhancement program "Modern Genetics for All Students."

Washington University biology faculty, science writers and high school teachers have collaborated to develop and field-test a curriculum unit of traditional genetics integrated with modern molecular biology and human health information for ninth and tenth grade students. Initially four local high schools, representing urban, suburban, and rural environments, were selected to field test the unit. Since implementation, the program has grown from four to 22 high schools maintaining the same urban, suburban, and rural mix. Each year four new schools are added. The unit is being used by biology students at all levels (honors, general biology, and life science) participating in at least 12 weeks of activities. We believe that a basic foundation of genetic knowledge and awareness of bioethical issues will provide students with the resources to make better informed health care choices. Hands-on activities, student problem solving, and group projects allow students to explore modern genetics concepts as well as the relevance of current biotechnology and medical research to health issues.

The unit activities have been extensively tested and evaluated in every classroom at the participating schools. Statistical evaluation of both student knowledge gains and improvements in student attitudes towards science and health show the curriculum to be effective with all student levels, and also with females and underrepresented minorities. Our field-testing model has identified three factors which are essential for the success of hands-on intensive science in the classroom: teacher content training, provision of materials in classroom-ready form, and strong implementation support during the first year of curriculum use. Teachers at the local high schools indicate that this model has enabled them to both improve their current teaching strategies, and also establish an internal support network which will sustain itself after the first year. All but the four newest schools purchase the basic consumable materials used in the unit. The consumables for new schools are supplied free of charge for the first two years that they are in the program.


Gary Corbin                  or      Victoria May
Genetics Program Coordinator         Director of Science Outreach
Phone: (314) 935-8138                Phone: (314) 935-6846
FAX: (314) 935-4432	             FAX: (314) 935-4432
e-mail:    e-mail:

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