Teaching lessons on DNA, genetics, race and ancestry could be a make it or break it moment in front of high school students. There is that lost look in the students’ eyes that inevitably leads to boredom when teachers dive deeper into cytology and molecular biology. Or there is the sensitivity of bringing up race in the classroom that might divert the science lesson into conversations often reserved for history or social studies classes. However, with the rising popularity of exploring your ancestry through companies specializing in consumer genomics like Ancestry and 23andMe, integrating the ancestry theme into a DNA and genetics lesson might compel the disenchanted.
On Saturday, December 7, twenty-five science teachers from across the Bay Area, attended the BABEC Training Workshop on mtDNA PCR: What Does Genetics Tell Us About Race and Ancestry? at City College of San Francisco – Mission Campus. This workshop provided teachers the opportunity to experience BABEC’s hands-on lab lesson by actually doing it, while learning how they can teach this lesson in their respective classrooms. The workshop also featured a special guest. Dr. Joshua Schraiber, Research Scientist of Population Genetics at Ancestry, gave a riveting presentation on ancestry, ethnicity, genetic communities and migration.
Even though the workshop was 6 hours, time seemed to fly due to the variety and quality of activities that kept everyone engaged. Teachers enjoyed a game of card matching, swishing for cheek cells and were excited to learn about haplogroups. It was easy to forget that the other invaluable take-aways from this workshop were the new and refined lab skills that the teachers had developed, a NGSS-aligned lesson plan that permits all students to do science and resources to turn classrooms into science labs.
Undoubtedly, the teachers’ enthusiasm for this BABEC lesson will be contagious for their students. Nevertheless, when teachers make learning science fun, they are helping to create a generation of problem solvers.
Thank you, Teachers, for attending this workshop and for all that you do for the next generation.
Below are photos from the workshop, and see BABEC’s Instagram for more!