Friday, October 31, 2008

Georgia State Receives Grant to Educate Children about DNA’s “Language”

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Georgia State University with a three-year, $760,000 grant to help educate Georgia’s K-12 students about DNA and genetic principles through the university’s Bio-Bus program.

The grant is part of nearly $17 million in grants from the NIH’s Science Education Partnership Awards, aimed at stimulating scientific curiosity among students and to encourage hands-on science education.

The project’s goal is to teach children about DNA, the essential building blocks of genetics, as a language — something that has not done at early ages, said Barbara Baumstark, professor of biology and principal investigator of the project.

Baumstark said since DNA contains a certain code that is read from left to right, it is usually taught as a language. But concepts surrounding DNA, including the “alphabet” of the genetic language — adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, abbreviated A, C, G and T —are not commonly taught until adolescence, even though younger children often acquire languages much more readily than older children and adolescents.

“We were missing an excellent opportunity to allow younger children to get familiar with DNA,” Baumstark said.

She and her colleagues will develop activities in partnership with the Decatur City Schools to teach children ages 6 to 9 to help get them familiar with the concepts. Those activities will hopefully spread to other schools throughout the state.

The Bio-Bus program brings biology education to Georgia school students, offering hands-on, inquiry-based activities designed to get K-12 students enthusiastic about science.

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