Genetics Lab

Diversity and variation are widespread in nature, but are there rules about why variation appears and how it is transmitted between generations? The study of heredity has a long history as people have sought to answer questions such as: Why do children resemble their parents? How can diseases run in families? How can two black Labradors have a litter of black, brown, and tan puppies? How can farmers increase crop yields? No one truly understood how traits were inherited until the mid-1800s, when a monk named Gregor Mendel gathered evidence that began explaining how heredity works using plants. Until then, many people believed that traits became blended in offspring or that only one parent passed a trait on to the offspring. We know now that this is not the case.

This course uses a miniature, fast-growing wheat, Brassica rapa, to explore and understand the rules and principles of genetics. Students will set up their own terrarium to create genetic experiments in order to understand the rules of inheritance by identifying which plant traits are dominant or recessive. They will make genetic predictions using Punnett squares and collect data to test their predictions.

Live Classes: Tuesdays, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, from the week of January 10th to the week of May 9th

Student Expectations: Each week there will be a list of assignments and activities for the next week posted in the online classroom. These will include readings, fun videos or websites, questions, quizzes, and instructions to students for posting their plant data and pictures online for class discussions. Assignments typically are due the following week before class. Students will be expected to report their findings from their experiments in a lab paper.

Student Support: The instructor is available by email.

Feedback/Assessment: The instructor will provide written feedback on activities and written assignments.

Materials/Supplies: Readings and assignments will be provided on the course website or by email. A list of supplies for growing fast plants will be provided before class commences. These items will easily be found in local stores and online.

Prerequisites: None. This is an introductory course, and students are not expected to have a background in genetics, although they should be able to read and engage with scientific material and participate in course activities.

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