Bronxville High School students have completed extensive research on genetic conditions and disorders as part of an assignment in teacher Justine McClellan’s Advanced Placement Biology class. Over the last several months, they learned about the cause, symptoms, diagnosis and potential treatment of each condition and created a website, where they documented their work and provided resources.
“What stood out to me the most about this project was its authenticity,” McClellan said. “Students were required to interview someone with a genetic condition or with a condition that has a genetic risk factor. For many students the topic became extremely personally relevant as they interviewed someone in their family, or a close family friend affected by a condition. This, combined with the knowledge that their websites would be published publicly, helped motivate students to do high-quality work.”
Some of the topics the students explored included Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, celiac disease, Down syndrome, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple sclerosis and Turner syndrome. The project was designed to further the students’ understanding of genetics and seek out real-world potential applications of biotechnologies.
“Ultimately, many students came away with a much deeper understanding of a medical condition and the role of genetics and cellular mechanics ultimately affecting someone’s quality of life in a profound way,” McClellan said. “Unfortunately, many of these conditions have no simple cure or treatment, even with the advent of biotechnology. Diving deeply into the molecular level of the condition has helped students to understand the complexity of these conditions and the importance of personalized medicine. Like cancer, many of these diseases can have individualized causes and effects, making treatment difficult.”
McClellan created the project using the Innovative Designs for Education method, which encourages teachers to engage students in project-based learning through an authentic experience. She created a rubric and guidelines for the long-term projects while allowing the students to work at their own pace. Throughout the experience, she supported them by providing feedback to help them reach an ambitious goal.
To view the students’ projects, visit https://sites.google.com/bronxvilleschool.org/genetic-conditions-project/home.