Genetics are an important and sometimes overlooked aspect of a child’s education which is why it is important to teach them in ways that they can both understand the concept of genetics as well as retain the information for a lifetime. As hands-on activities are the best way to engage children, here are three lessons on genetics you can try out.
This first method requires some materials and is best utilized with a microscope handy. Before starting, it’s crucial to remind the child(ren) that DNA exists in all living things including humans, animals, and even bananas or strawberries! This is how you teach your child to extract the DNA from a banana:
1. Blend a banana with 1 cup of water and pour into a test tube or seal-able container.
2. Add 10 drops of detergent and shake well (the soap will help release the DNA from the cells).
3. Add a small amount of denatured alcohol to the mixture.
4. Remove the gooey substance (banana DNA strand) from the mixture and observe it either under a microscope or sealed in a separate container.
It’s a fairly simple process and will definitely require adult supervision but well worth the effort. Also try using this method to extract DNA from a strawberry and compare the results.
Compile a worksheet (or download from the internet) of a list of genetic traits versus members of the child’s family. Task them with interviewing their family members and finding out which traits primarily run in their family, which family members share what traits, and even where their own traits might have been inherited from. This will help the child understand if they inherited their freckles from either their grandmother or grandfather. If you want to take it a step further, try incorporating the dominant and recessive genes as a lesson or separate worksheet as well.
Perhaps the most simple way to go is the familiar tree model of genetics that kids can easily understand. This will engage them in actually writing, drawing, and planning their heritage line in a way that utilizes their left and right side of their brains. Visual learning is a very important tool to retain information and we definitely want children to remember how their families are related and inter-connected.
Learning about genetics can be fun and exciting and it would be a crime if children today weren’t able to fully experience the knowledge of DNA and heritage through these easy and engaging methods. Try getting them interested in learning with a surefire hands-on project and the rest should be history…or should we say genetics.