A 5-lesson, 5th-grade instructional unit, “Genetics and Sickle Cell Disease,” was developed and tested as part of a 40-lesson curriculum entitled SEEK (Science Exploration, Excitement, and Knowledge): A Curriculum in Health and Biomedical Science for Diverse 4th and 5th Grade Students. The genetics lessons include hands-on activities (e.g., DNA extraction from cheek cells), a simulated plant genetics experiment, and a classroom visit by a person with sickle cell disease, as well as by a health care practitioner who works with sickle cell patients or a scientist specializing in genetics. The unit was tested with 82 5th-grade students at public elementary schools in Oakland, CA; 96% were racial and ethnic minorities. The comparison group consisted of 84 5th-grade Oakland students racially/ ethnically, academically, and socio-economically matched to those in the experimental group. Both groups completed a 20-question, multiple-choice pre/posttest covering science concepts, scientific process, lifestyle choices, and careers. The experimental group showed significant improvement on 13 of 20 questions (P<.05, t-tests) and on the test as a whole, whereas the comparison group did not show significant improvement either on any of the questions or on the test as a whole. The experimental group improved on 10 concept questions, 2 scientific process questions, and 1 lifestyle question. Teachers rated the educational value of the unit as 9.5 on a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high). These results show that genetics and sickle cell disease can be taught successfully in 5th grade, although they are not typically covered at this level.
© 2015 National Medical Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.