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        The Human Genome Project

        Students learn about the Human Genome Project: the process, the functions of sections of DNA code, how knowledge of the human genome is being applied to medicine, and about genetic variation.

        Lesson Summary


        In this activity, students learn about the Human Genome Project. They do an interactive Web activity which simulates the process scientists use to determine the sequence of chromosomal DNA bases. Then they learn how two teams of scientists raced to decode the human genome. Next they explore a stretch of sequenced DNA on the Web to learn about the function of different sections of DNA code. They learn how knowledge of the human genome is being applied to medicine. They also learn about genetic variation among humans and between humans and other species. Finally, they assess what they have learned about the Human Genome Project by playing a game of Jeopardy.


        • Learn about the purpose and work of the Human Genome Project
        • Describe the process of sequencing human DNA
        • Understand the functions of different stretches of code on a chromosome
        • Recognize the similarity in the genetic code among humans and between humans and other species
        • Learn how the Human Genome Project can contribute to curing diseases

        Suggested Time

        • 1-2 class periods

        Multimedia Resources

        Use these resources to create a simple assessment or video-based assignment with the Lesson Builder tool on PBS LearningMedia.


        Before the Lesson

        • Review the concepts of and relationships between DNA, genes, proteins, chromosomes, and traits.

        After the Lesson

        The Lesson

        Part I

        1. Show the Human Genome Project video. Discuss the following:

        • What does the Human Genome Project decode?
        • How is that code represented?
        • What has the project revealed about the differences between humans and bananas?
        • What questions does the Human Genome Project raise for you?

        2. Now have students explore the DNA sequencing process by doing the Web activity Sequence for Yourself. Use the following questions to elicit student responses, either in writing or as part of a whole-class discussion:

        • Why does the DNA have to be cut into pieces? How is this done?
        • How are DNA copies made in the lab?
        • How do primers and special fluorescent nucleotides help determine the DNA sequences?
        • How does the overlapping of DNA segments allow the entire sequence of a DNA molecule to be read?

        3. Show video The Sequencing Race Begins. Ask:

        • What is the process for sequencing the human genome?
        • How has the way scientists read the genetic code changed in recent years?
        • Why is the map of the human genome considered only the beginning of the Human Genome Project?

        4. Have students Explore a Stretch of Code and take notes as they do it. Then ask the following and discuss as a class:

        • What does the majority of the DNA in chromosomes code for?
        • What is the role of gene promoters like TATA boxes?
        • How does the "machinery" of the cell know where to begin reading the gene?
        • What are exons, and what is their function in the chromosomes?
        • What are introns, and what do they do? What happens to them when DNA is transcribed into mRNA?
        • What are the roles of "hitchhiking" and ancient code in human DNA, and where did they come from?
        • How alike is the DNA from two different humans?
        • What is a gene, and what role do genes play in the human body?

        5. Show the video HIV Immunity to examine some of the benefits of mapping the human genome. Ask:

        • What are outliers, and what is their value in understanding disease?
        • How can a genetic mutation be advantageous?
        • How is the knowledge of mutations being used to combat the HIV virus?

        6. Show the video Genetic Variation and discuss the following:

        • Whose genes are being sequenced in the two human genome projects?
        • Are these genes representative of the human species? Why or why not?
        • What is the percentage of genetic difference between any two humans?
        • What does the similarity of basic functions between different organisms indicate?

        7. Finally, have students read the Genome Facts document. Have students use these facts and what they have learned about the Human Genome Project to create a series of answers and questions for a Jeopardy quiz show. (See Jeopardy Game Show (PDF) review for directions.)


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