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How well do primary school aged children understand, interpret and reflect on genetics?

Jess Oliver

About the project

‘I wanted to bring an interdisciplinary approach around genetics to these children, as was done in the module (…).I wanted them to think not only about the facts of science and how it may affect them but also how it affects the people around them and society in general.’

‘During [the activity] ‘cracking the code’ I was asked if the body does the same thing and so they clearly understood how our body is using DNA. ‘Bingo’ showed that children were thinking about what is inherited (…) clearly they were thinking more in depth about their traits.’

‘When the discussion started [about ethics], I initially got the response that yes it was a good idea to design people because “you can make people look good” (…). However, as we talked more about the ethics of ‘designer babies’, the children really engaged with why this could be a negative thing (…). They came up with their own ideas such as designer babies ‘may take away their individuality’ and that if someone was not genetically modified and everyone else was then they may feel left out.’

‘(…) the results of this workshop support the hypothesis that young children can understand difficult and somewhat complex concepts that society is currently debating. They are indeed able to understand basic facts about genetics, interpret what DNA can be used for and reflect upon the risks and benefits of using it in different ways.’

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