(A Hands-on Investigation of Recombinant DNA technology)
Although this activity is intended for students who have a good grasp of genetics, including information transfer, DNA, RNA, and the genetic code, it can also be presented to introduce students to the concepts of DNA and RNA molecular formation by pairing of bases. The manipulation of colorful chains of paper clips (“pop-beads” make an appealing substitute), following of directions to construct a letter-color “code,” removing a short sequence of code, and figuring out how to attach a portion of DNA strands to a plasmid ring may provide graphic illustration which will lead to further curiosity and inquiry as the cognitive understanding develops. And besides, it is fun!
Complete instructions for this lesson, far too extensive to be printed in this unit, are available in the flyer, “National Science and Technology Week ‘88: Genetic Engineering: from the Industrial Biotechnology Association,” 1625 K Street, N.W., Suite 1100, Washington, D.C. 20006; or (202) 857-0244. Materials can be obtained from any stationery store for less than ten dollars. For advanced students or a special project, this lesson is highly recommended.
Video Resources: “Creation, Evolution, and the Human Genome”
(In just a short time since the compilation of these suggested resources, I have discovered that nearly all of the NOVA and Smithsonian videos can be obtained through public library loan systems. The Hawkhill Videos can be rented or purchased from Hawkhill Associates, Inc., 125 East Gilman Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703. Both the feature films—”Inherit the Wind” and “Race for the Double Helix”—can now be obtained from several of the larger chains of video rental stores.)
“Tales of the Human Dawn.” Smithsonian World, 60 min., 1990.
Search for human origins, chiefly through fossil and bone studies; excellent timeline of hominid ancestors.
“Children of Eve.” NOVA, 60 min., 1990
The case for human and ape divergence based on DNA studies; review of Sarich’s and Wilson’s molecular clock hypothesis.
“The Gene.” Hawkhill Videos, 60 min., 1989.
Two 30 minute segments, one on the history of genetics, the other on genes and how they work. Good basic information and illustrations of DNA and genetic engineering.
“God, Darwin, and Dinosaurs.” NOVA, 60 min., 1989.
Documents the creation-evolution controversy and uses the debate to explore the question, “What is science?”
“Evolution.” Hawkhill Videos, 60 min., 1989.
Human evolution and family trees as seen primarily by paleoanthropologists. Interviews with Louis Leaky, Jane Goodall, and others on their field studies.
“Decoding the Book of Life.” NOVA, 60 min., 1989.
Explanation of DNA as the code for all life; excellent graphics showing unwinding of DNA molecule to examine and explain base pair sequences.
“Inherit the Wind.” (feature movie) 120 min.
Two versions of this movie have been made based on the play about the famous 1925 Scopes Trial. The original starring Spencer Tracy is excellent, but students may prefer the somewhat more recent remake. Good entertainment for those interested in the trial and its dramatic development.
“Race for the Double Helix.” A&E Films, 106 min., 1987.
First produced by BBC as “Life Story,” this film portrays the discovery of the structure of DNA. Jeff Goldblum plays a rather manic Jim Watson, and Tim Pigott-Smith plays Francis Crick. In reviewing the film himself, Crick said that “it certainly gets [across] the obvious fact that scientific research is performed by human beings, with all their virtues and weaknesses.” Enjoyable, but students are apt to find it a bit slow paced and heavily laced with science dialogues.