Genetic Fingerprints

This summer I had the opportunity to spend several days developing a learning unit with  a marine researcher, a math teacher, and a science teacher. This unit incorporates our subject areas and uses actual data from the marine researcher. It was a fun and challenging experience and led to great ideas to use in the classroom.

This week, I began teaching a part of the unit that involves genetic fingerprinting. At first I was not sure how well my biology students would be able to understand the content as we are so early in the year and these are some hefty concepts. However, I decided to go for it and use a source I have used in the past with my AP Biology students.

Using HHMI’s resource on DNA profiling, the students developed an understanding of STRs and how they are used in solving crimes, identifying disaster victims, and determining family relationships. The students engaged in the material and clearly appreciated the real-life connections.

I decided to continue with HHMI’s connected resource CSI Wildlife. The unit we developed from the summer experience includes identification of breeding populations for whales through DNA analysis. The HHMI resource involves identifying elephants from DNA analysis of their tusks. What a great parallel! I have not used this resource in the past but am liking it so far.

If you have a Biology or AP Biology concept that needs something more to help your students connect with the content, check out HHMI. It is full of educational resources and is free! Let me know what you find 🙂

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