Bringing the Human
Genome Project into the Classroom
The Human Genome Project (HGP) has created a free multimedia kit to serve as an educational tool for high school students and the general public. The kit, entitled The Human Genome Project: Exploring our Molecular Selves, includes a multimedia CD-ROM; an award- winning video documentary, The Secret of Our Lives; a commemorative wall poster; and an informational brochure, Genetics: The Future of Medicine.
"As we complete the working draft of the human genome sequence, a critical tool to advance biomedical research, we have a responsibility to provide the tools to help the public, both old and young, understand how genomics will improve health and affect our lives," says Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
The kit was developed to improve life sciences education in the nation's schools by ensuring that science teachers throughout the country have better access to the latest information about the HGP. The kit is designed primarily for high school students in general or introductory biology classes, but it will also be useful for college students, voluntary health organizations, and the general public.
Awarded a gold medal by the New York Film Festival, the video documentary, The Secret of Our Lives, traces the development, evolution, and impact of the HGP and genomics research. A visual montage of black-and-white and color film footage, eye-catching graphics, and creative camera angles, the video is a far cry from a typical, staid instructional video. With images ranging from DNA expression microarrays to wriggling roundworms, the video provides a venue for HGP leaders and scientists to explain in conversational dialogue what human genome research is all about. This video documentary is closed-captioned and available in both English and Spanish.
The CD-ROM opens with video of two young boys, and as the camera zooms "inside" one child's body, it transitions to a 3Dcomputer animation illustrating the basics of molecular biology. The animation progresses from cells to the nucleus, chromosomes to DNA, and the scale, structure, and function of the human genome is portrayed. The mechanism of converting genetic instructions into active proteins is explained through accurate 3D animation of the processes of transcription and translation.
Included in the CD-ROM is an interactive timeline of milestones in genetics, presenting more than 90 key events and discoveries, from Charles Darwin's publication of On The Origin of the Species (1859) to the sequencing of the human genome. By clicking on any year in the timeline, the student can read a short, illustrated story and often can find archival images and original scientific publications. The variety of comprehensive information, together with the "game-like" user interface and audio, makes exploring the timeline fun and intellectually stimulating.
The CD-ROM also includes the following segments: Genes, Variation, and Human History: This segment consists of two interactive classroom activities, Genetic Variation in Populations and Using Genes to Trace Human History. These activities address what it means to be human -- as a species, as a population, and as an individual. The student will learn how genetic variation allows the study of similarities and differences among individuals and how to use genetic data to compare human populations from various parts of the world.
How to sequence a genome: This animated and narrated segment presents all the essential steps in sequencing a genome. Produced in a self-contained format, it can be downloaded onto a personal computer and used, for example, as part of a presentation.
The future of research and medicine: This segment includes two essays, Genomics and the Future of Medicine and Implications of the Genome Project for Medical Science, which highlight major research areas sparked by genomics and the impact new genetic knowledge and technologies will have on the future of medicine. Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI): This segment opens with a video that introduces current and future societal issues associated with genetics and genomics. Then, seven case studies are presented. Each case study includes a background section and information necessary to evaluate the scenario, a short vignette raising an important ethical or societal issue, a set of discussion questions, and web links and other resources to assist those in search of more-detailed information.
Glossary: The CD-ROM also includes an audio glossary of genetic terms. Consistent with the multimedia presentation of material throughout the CD-ROM, the glossary includes written definitions, related terms, illustrations, phonetic spellings, and audio clips of scientists defining the terms. The kit is produced by the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, with co-sponsorship by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research at the Department of Energy; Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Nature and Science magazines; and the American Society of Human Genetics.