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Celebrating DNA Day 2015: Engaging Teachers to Inspire Students

April 7, 2015

On April 24, we will celebrate National DNA Day 2015, which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double-helical structure in 1953. DNA Day offers students, teachers, and the public exciting opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomics and to explore how genomics may be meaningful to their lives. Each year, NHGRI celebrates DNA Day with a number of events. This year, the Institute is working to engage teachers in genomics education through a variety of activities and new teaching resources. Below, I highlight some of our DNA Day 2015 activities, as well as our teacher-focused resources that bring genomics into the classroom.

2015 National DNA Day Pinterest ChallengeThis year, we launched our first "Pinterest Challenge" to leverage new technologies and social media to encourage teachers to take part in DNA Day. Pinterest is an online forum in which people can bookmark interesting photos or sources of information from the internet and then share these with others. The Pinterest Challenge offers K-12 teachers and their science classes an opportunity to create Pinterest boards with images and/or links to genomic resources for educating students in the classroom. All entries will receive an NHGRI Pinterest Challenge certificate, and the top 10 entries from the United States will win classroom educational packets that include useful CD-ROMs and printed learning materials. The Pinterest Challenge began on March 2 and ends on April 17, 2015. The top boards will be announced and featured on the Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibition website on April 24.

Also this year, we will be launching two new resources for use in the classroom. A new "Human Identity Lesson Plan" is one of a series of inquiry-based lessons inspired by the Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibition and website. This educational resource aims to bring into high school classrooms some of the compelling examples of genomics research projects that are featured in the exhibition. The lessons are developed collaboratively with educators, scientists, teachers, and students nationwide; they address the concepts of inheritance and variation by engaging students in actual genomics research studies on human genetic variation, identity, and ancestry.

Hands-on, inquiry-based learning is used to highlight the concepts of collecting data, analyzing and comparing data, and drawing conclusions. The Human Identity Lesson Plan is also designed to raise awareness about career opportunities in genomics, emphasize the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration for scientific discoveries, and address common misconceptions in genetics and genomics. This lesson plan, as well as a number of existing teaching resources, will be made available on the Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibition website.

Additionally, a new "What Do You Think" online interactive will be available on the Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibition website just in time for DNA Day. "What Do You Think" is a repurposing of one of the most popular interactive stations in the Unlocking Life's Code exhibition. The online interactive presents a series of challenging and engaging ethical questions about genetics and genomics research, allowing users to probe issues about genomics and health, research, identity, privacy, testing in children, discrimination, and societal applications. There are many sides to the issues presented and other probing questions posed. "What Do You Think" is an excellent tool for any learning environment-it can be viewed on desktops, laptops, or tablets.

DNA Day April 25 2015The above examples are just a few of the activities and resources available for DNA Day 2015. More information about all of the NHGRI DNA Day activities can be found at, on Twitter at, or on the DNA Day Facebook page at If you are interested in learning more about activities and resources available for teachers, students, and the public throughout the year, I encourage you to sign up for the Unlocking Life's Code e-Newsletter at

The NHGRI Education and Community Involvement Branch (ECIB)-part of the Institute's Division of Policy, Communications, and Education-is the catalyst for these teacher-focused education programs. Working with outside organizations, ECIB reaches students and teachers from across the United States and around the world. To learn more about the full complement of ECIB programs and activities, visit

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Posted: May 5, 2014