Jim Bauer: A Union of the Genes 2008.04.28

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

You can read about genetics in a textbook, you can listen to your teacher try to make sense of it for you, or you can try it out yourself.

Get married, reproduce and watch the genes go to work.

That’s the approach eighth grade students in Jim Bauer’s science class are taking at Morenci Middle School. Well, sort of.

Students find their mate by luck of the draw, then compare their genes to see what traits might be produced in their fictional offspring.genetics.wedding.jpg

There’s nothing too serious about the match-up, but in the end, Mr. Bauer’s class knows how genes interact.

Long before the wedding day, each student flips a pair of pennies to look at the probability of passing on traits to offspring.  Two heads indicate the dominant gene of brown hair. Two tails give the recessive gene for red hair. One head and one tail produce a gene carrying both traits.

The next step is to develop a list of options for the class’s children. Hair color: Afro hair or Marge hair (from the Simpsons). Head shape: cone or round. Nose: regular or elephant snout. One of each of the dozen traits is listed as dominant and the other recessive.

Next, students take the coin-flip data from before and create their personal Genetic Profile Chart. Their genotype—the inherited instructions—is recorded for each trait to determine the phenotype—the observable characteristics, such as Oriental eyes, rabbit ears, etc.

Using their 12 traits, they come up with portraits of themselves to show off their bodies.

Then comes the marriage. Mr. Bauer draws names to match up the pairs. Generally, there’s just a simple piece of cheesecloth placed over the head of the bride. With an interested reporter coming for a photo, Mr. Bauer went a little further this year. The cheesecloth, of course, but also a bouquet, a justice of the peace, a wedding party and music from Mr. Bauer’s mouth.

On Monday, the new couples got down to work. They filled out Punnett Squares—diagrams used to map out genetic outcomes from breeding—to determine the characteristics of their two children.

Once more, the couples turn to their artistic abilities and draw pictures of their future children.

Finally, the couples take turns at the head of the class to talk about their families.

Mr. Bauer doesn’t always leave in-service sessions and conferences with good, ready-to-use ideas to take back to the classroom. That wasn’t the case when he picked up the idea for what he calls the Genetic Family Project.

“It’s the best project I’ve ever gotten from a conference,” he said. “This is one of those projects where you have very few discipline problems because the kids really get into it.”

Aside from the scientific principles demonstrated, the project also has its practical side.

“It shows how brothers and sisters can have some traits they share and others they don’t share,” Mr. Bauer said.

A blonde brother, a brunette sister. One with green eyes, another with brown. It all begins to make sense.

And about that classroom wedding.…

“They can all get an annulment if they wish,” Mr. Bauer said.

  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

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