Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Genes at Work
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

This lesson is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Tips-- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Student Prerequisites:
If possible, students should view the INNOVATION video. For information on purchasing videotapes of INNOVATION, visit or call 1-800-257-5126.

The following sites should be bookmarked:


    Based on Thirteen/WNET's three-part PBS series, this Web piece provides articles, animations, a glossary, and related links about ground-breaking medical treatments and research, with particular emphasis on genetic research.

  • Electronic Desktop Project: The Virtual FlyLab

    An educational Web site about the principles of genetic inheritance, Virtual FlyLab provides an opportunity for the student to play the role of a research geneticist. Students design matings between female and male fruit flies carrying one or more genetic mutations. Students are then guided through the process of analyzing the results.

  • DNA: The Instruction Manual for All Life

    This site is an online exhibit presenting an interactive tour about DNA: its structure, composition, and location within human cells.

  • MendelWeb

    This site is a resource for teachers and students interested in the origins of classical genetics, introductory data analysis, elementary plant science, and the history and literature of science. The site may be somewhat advanced for most grade 9-12 students, but they will find the extensive glossary helpful.

    Computer Resources:
    You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

    Recommended number of computers: one computer with Internet access per pair or group of students. (If students do not have Web access, print information that is on the Web site.)

    For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.



    Divide the class into pairs or groups of three. Have students explore and discuss the following stories on the INNOVATION Web piece: Sifting the Genes of Life and Death, A Genetic Rescue for a Tattered Immune System, and The Making of a New Egg. (Note: If you do not have enough computers, the content can be printed out for each group.) Then have the students answer the discussion questions below:

      A. In Sifting the Genes of Life and Death, Laurie and Claudio Masella, who are in good health, have a child born with a genetic disease called epidermolysis bullosa. Why was their son, Joey, at risk for this disease? Explain your answer in terms of the genetic characteristics of Joey's parents, Laurie and Claudio.

      B. The second couple in Sifting the Genes of Life and Death, Steve and Fiona, have two children, a healthy child and a child with a severe form of epidermolysis bullosa. How is it possible for one sibling to have a genetic disease while her/his siblings do not (this question assumes that the siblings have the same parents)?

      C. Gene therapy is the subject of A Genetic Rescue for a Tattered Immune System. In your own words, describe gene therapy. How is it being used to treat young Andrew Gobea, who was born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)? Can it be used to treat Laurie and Claudio's son, Joey? Explain your answer.

      D. In The Making of a New Egg, Maureen and Michael conceive their daughter, Emma, via cytoplasmic egg donation. Does Emma have her parents' physical characteristics? Explain your answer.
    Make sure that students have a clear understanding of what typifies dominant and recessive genes and a clear understanding of the concepts and ideas that are covered in this lesson.


    Have students explore Sifting the Genes of Life and Death on the INNOVATION Web piece.

    The topic of Sifting the Genes of Life and Death is how a genetic disease affects two families. Laurie and Claudio's son, Joey, was born with epidermolysis bullosa (EB). This outcome was unexpected: Both parents were healthy but they carried the recessive, defective gene for this disease. It is difficult to predict whether a child whose parents both carry recessive genes for a disease will have that disease. The case of Steve and Fiona underscores this. Their daughter Alison, born with a severe form of EB, was thought to be at low risk because her older sister, Katie, was healthy.

    Print and distribute the Vocabulary Sheet. For homework, have students research the terms outlined on the vocabulary sheet.

    Have students use the Genetics Chart to answer the following questions regarding the possible outcomes in the genetic makeup of the offspring of each of the two couples: Laurie (Female Parent) and Claudio (Male Parent), and Fiona (Female Parent) and Steve (Male Parent).

    Use the ovals on the chart to show the recessive and dominant genes. For a dominant gene, fill in the oval; for a recessive gene, leave it blank. Answer the following questions:

    • What combinations of recessive and dominant genes could children of these parents inherit?
    • Does the sex of the children make any difference?
    • Steve and Fiona's daughter Katie is healthy. Speculate about the combination of recessive and dominant genes for EB she inherited.
    • Make predictions about the health of each child on the chart.
    • Suggest ways that Fiona and Steve might conceive a healthy baby. What, if any, are the moral implications?

    Web sites for this step:


    Electronic Desktop Project - Virtual FlyLab

    DNA: The Instruction Manual for All Life



    Working in Groups
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your classroom into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (It may be efficient to have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer.) When the groups have finished working have them switch places.

    Look for Web Resources Together as a Class
    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities you can do an Internet search together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen. Go to the INNOVATION Web piece and review the information presented there. Go to a search engine page, allow your students to suggest the search criteria, and do an Internet search. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time and make suggestions. This way, you can be sure that students have a starting point.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.