Lucille Lang Day, Ph.D., Eileen Murray, Marsha J. Treadwell, Ph.D., Bertram H. Lubin, M.D.

Journal of the National Medical Association

Vol 107, No 1, February 2015

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 13of20 questions (P<.05, t-tests) and on the test as a whole, whereas the comparison group did not show significant improvement eitheron 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 showthat genetics and sickle cell disease can be taught successfully in 5th grade, although they are not typically covered at this level.

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