Nature vs. Nurture

Biology class yesterday and today was about genetics, genetic disorders, and Why Genes Aren't Our Destiny. The article they read, from a January 2010 Times magazine, explored the field of epigenics and presented how the choices a person makes in lifestyle can influence how genes are expressed, both in the person making the choice and in their offspring.  Even though the text was a bit dense for my freshmen students, they were great about reading it and highlighting information that supported the premise (title) of the article, words that they didn't know, and ideas they found intriguing or confusing. Conversations varied quite a bit between classes depending on their make-up and abilities. Some focussd on the health aspects of exercise and the food we eat. Others picked up on the historical context of Darwin and Lamarck, and considered the possibilities of future drugs. In all cases I let the students lead the direction of the conversation and the conversations were, in my opinion, valuable to them. They were engaged, thinking, and participating.

Today we followed up with TED Talks videos, or excerpts of them, interspersed with discussion about the key points of the talks. Again, conversations took many directions, and again I let the students lead the direction of the discussion. We had to watch the Dean Ornish twice because he spoke so quickly. One student said "I'd hate to have to do a 500 by 500 punnett square" and there were some titters at some points, but the ensuing discussion was productive. These are the TED videos we watched, the first one in it's entirety and the others I chose excerpts from:
I felt a bit preachy, and wondered about imparting my values on the students when I trashed the big agribusiness and the overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and hormones on the food that we eat. Then a colleague pointed out that as teachers we do this every, we model for learners how to think, how to evaluate, how to approach a problem, and how to take keen note of what lies in the world around them. This is our job as teachers. Hopefully we present information that is balanced and well-supported, and allow disagreements to occur. Itis part of the education of us all.

My hope is that they are haunted by these ideas and explore them more, make even small changes in their diet and exercise habits. At the end of one class a student came to me and asked where you get organic beef because he had not seen any at the market his family used; I was able to tell him about a local farm that raised and sold their own beef.

One step at a time. Pitch, power, trim, patience.
I can't wait to share an article from Popular Science (November 2009) called "Toxic Avengers".

1 comment:

Alexandra Emmett said...

This is incredible and truly inspiring. Thank you.