Teachers who are always looking for video clips, simulations, animations, and the like to show to their kids -- for difficult topics such as DNA, genetics, and evolution -- will find a lot to offer from Learn.Genetics. Kids often don't have a lot of solid, firsthand knowledge about these subjects, so the more you can present the info to them in different ways, the easier it will be for them to build a more complete understanding; this site is a good place for you to find those resources and incorporate them into lessons.
With Learn.Genetics, you'll find appropriately detailed videos and animations to spruce up your lectures. You can assign articles or interactives for additional practice, individual work, or homework, or you can send kids to the site for research. Additionally, there's a companion site called Teach.Genetics where teachers can find free activities and lesson plans for common genetics and evolution topics.Continue reading Show less
Have you ever spent hours online looking for something, anything, to help explain to your students what DNA actually is and how it works? Learn.Genetics is a free website from the University of Utah that provides a vast library of multimedia pages, developed by researchers and science teachers. The site covers topics related to genetics, evolution, metabolism, medicine, cell biology, neuroscience, and ecology.
When you enter one of the subjects from the home page, you'll find a list of pages for that topic. Each entry is colorfully labeled with Explore, Interactive Explore, Learn More, Video, and more. Explore pages are usually engaging short articles or videos that give a basic overview of a topic. Interactive Explore pages give kids a slightly more active experience, such as an interactive diagram or simulation or virtual lab. Learn More pages give more in-depth information about a specific topic; each page has text, diagrams, and/or videos or interactive activities.
You'll find lots of good articles and videos at Learn.Genetics that will help kids learn about complex biology topics. The site is simple, colorful, well organized, and easy to use; one thing that would make the library even easier for kids is a search function or index so you can more quickly find the things you need.
The content pages are high quality -- not too long or wordy and accompanied by clear, colorful images or engaging videos. Together, the basic Explore and Interactive Explore pages allow kids to progress through the content at their own pace and then move on to learn more. The site also includes a set of four biotech virtual labs, covering topics such as DNA extraction and gel electrophoresis -- a great intro to basic biotech topics. In the evolution library, one nice feature is a summary box on each page listing common misconceptions about evolution, along with the real explanation. Overall, Learn.Genetics does a wonderful job introducing the basics and getting kids to dive deep into specialized biology concepts.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.
Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.
Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.
Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking this trait.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.
Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells, either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.
Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function.
Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells.
Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.
Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.
Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.
Use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms.
Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.
Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for how carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from sugar molecules may combine with other elements to form amino acids and/or other large carbon-based molecules.
Use a model to illustrate that cellular respiration is a chemical process whereby the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and the bonds in new compounds are formed resulting in a net transfer of energy.
Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.
Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.
Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.
Make and defend a claim based on evidence that inheritable genetic variations may result from: (1) new genetic combinations through meiosis, (2) viable errors occurring during replication, and/or (3) mutations caused by environmental factors.
Apply concepts of statistics and probability to explain the variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population.
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