My first exposure to cells, DNA, and genetics was in the 4th grade. Our first assignment was to create a cell model, complete with organelles, a nucleus, and DNA, out of clay and candy. My gray-colored clay cytoplasm was laden with jellybean mitochondria, a licorice nucleus, and Tic Tacs to represent chromosomes. It was a modest simplification of the true wonders of our cells and genetic structure, but it was the highlight of the lesson. Although not at all to proper scale, and biologically unsustainable due to missing structures like M&M golgi bodies and a gummy worm endoplasmic reticulum (which ended up in my stomach instead of in the clay), the lesson brought biology to life for me.
So I was thrilled to hear the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) is participating in National DNA Day 2009 by reaching out to students across the country. Genetic counselors will talk to the kids about DNA, genetic testing, and the genetic counseling profession. Apparently our education system has come a long way on DNA education from its candy-model roots. With the advent of personal genomics upon us, it is crucial for the rising generation to understand what genetic screening is all about -- and who better to present this information than NSGC members, who are the interface between genomic technology and its users.
A press release describing all of the efforts of the NSGC on DNA Day 2009 can be read here