A lesson in genetics

4-H coordinator teaches Science Blast in the Class

EVART — Attempting to roll their tongues and identifying each others’ hair and eye color, Evart middle school students got a special lesson in genetic science from 4-H coordinator Jake Steig last week. Teaching Science Blast in the Class, a curriculum created by Michigan State University Extension, Steig led fifth grade students in Sherry Morgan’s science classes through an activity to create a person based on short or long pipe cleaners representing dominant or recessive DNA traits. Each student also had the opportunity to identify their own traits based on their physical characteristics. “He talked to me before Christmas about doing this,” said Morgan. “Genes and DNA was our very next unit, and I said that would fit very well with the topics we are in right now.” Science Blast in the Class is a 4-H youth development initiative designed to help enhance science literacy in elementary and middle school students. The Animal Science section of Science Blast in the Class teaches students what makes each animal different, by showing the role genetics play in humans and animals. During Steig’s lesson, students “built” a person based on their traits of gender, eye color, number of fingers, tongue-rolling ability and earlobe attachment. Each group of students had a different combination of short of long pipe cleaners, representing the difference in the DNA combinations of each person. The lesson marked the second time Steig has facilitated the Science Blast in the Class program at Evart Middle School. He also came to the school in December, when he taught a class how to identify fish. “I’m thrilled to be able to come back and work with the Evart Middle School staff and students promoting science,” Steig said. “It’s fun teaching them. They’re very receptive.” Steig also taught the students about the 4-H program, which around 450 youth participate in each year. “4-H is big into science and this is another way to (promote) science,” Steig said.