One way to teach high school biology classes about genetics is to do DNA project. Because the idea of DNA is difficult for many students to conceptualize, interactive activities are one route to take when planning a DNA project. In-depth studies of DNA usually take place after some direct instruction on the basic terms and concepts.
Perhaps the most common DNA project in high school, many biology classes require students to construct a model of a double helix using any material they desire. This activity is helpful because not only do students have to have an understanding of DNA to complete the assignment, they also have to apply their understanding. This project allows students to think creatively about how to construct their model. By allowing the class to choose their own materials to make the model, students must problem solve and use critical thinking skills to complete the task.
National Geographic Genographic Project
National Geographic's Genographic Project is constructing a global genetic database and, for a fee, will trace any person's mitochondrial DNA to "reveal direct maternal ancestry." The package includes a cheek-swab kit and a DVD of the National Geographic Channel/PBS production "The Journey of Man." For this project, discuss the process of tracing genetic information with students before announcing that you will trace your own maternal ancestral background through your DNA. After receiving your genetic background information, share it with the class and ask students to write about how our new capabilities of DNA analysis help people. If you are not comfortable conducting the DNA analysis on yourself, find a co-worker who would like to volunteer.
Many state universities offer biotechnology partnerships to public schools. Canvas local schools to find out if there is a similar program in your state. Some programs go so far as to provide molecular genetics (DNA science) experiments, equipment, activities and workshops to biology teachers. If there is not a specific program in your area, ask a college biology professor to be a guest speaker in your class. Using this resource may pique your students' interest in continuing education and may offer access to equipment that is not available in most high school science labs.