Human Rights and DNA Fingerprinting

Human Rights and DNA Fingerprinting



This module is developed for a non-majors biology course which typically enrolls 24 students per section with a mixture of non-traditional rural community college students with a variety of backgrounds and views towards science. This activity could also be used  in a variety of classes including: General biology, introductory cell biology, introductory genetics, and anatomy & physiology 1.


This roadmap describes a set of readings and activities appropriate for a single class session (or two).

Applicable for Courses:

General biology, Introductory Biology, Cell biology, Genetics

Educational Level:


Roadmap Objectives:

    • Article: Collecting DNA for human rights: How to help while safeguarding privacy. Kim, J. & Katsains, S.H. 2013. Brave New World of human-rights DNA collection. Trends in Genetics 29(6).
    • Content area/major concepts: DNA, genotype, phenotype, DNA, gene, locus, allele, epigenetics, mitochondrial DNA, genomic DNA, PCR, gel electrophoresis
    • Methods or technology used to obtain data: Background paper: Jeffreys et. al. 1985. Individual-specific "fingerprints" of human DNA. Nature. 316(4)
    • How the CREATE strategy was used: Students will read a short news article about human trafficking, "collecting DNA for Human rights: How to help while safeguarding privacy". This article is a synopsis of a longer news article by Kim et. Al. from the journal Trends in Genetics "Brave New World Human Rights DNA Collection". Students will then concept map the following terms and include five from the article: Genotype, Phenotype, DNA, Gene, Locus, Allele. They will also read a synopsis of PCR and gel electrophoresis. Once class convenes students will be asked to form groups of about 3 and then as a class we will write on the board the main themes of the article for which two categories should arise: ethical/social aspects and science related themes. The goal is to lead students to a thought about identity and how it relates to both categories (and our vocabulary words for the lesson). Next, in groups of 3 have students create a consensus concept map based on their homework. During this time, especially for non-majors, it is wise to go around and check for understanding of allele, locus, and gene because this vocabulary will tie into another segment. As students are finishing their group consensus map they can begin writing them on the board. While a member is creating the finished concept map on the board the other members should be asking themselves what other questions they have about the news article. Then compare and contrast each concept map. There should be an over-arching theme of social vs. scientific topics. Then create a running list of the questions students still have about the news article until you get to the point of the ethics behind the project . Again divide students into small groups and have half of the discuss and create a list of the 'pros' to allowing victims of crimes be DNA tests and the other half do the same for 'cons'. As they finish up ask each group to elect a debate leader to defend their arguments and run a debate. The next task is to have students write a paragraph arguing from their view (or assigned view) to be collected for their journal portfolio or as a homework item. To get back to the core content ask students what the purpose of PCR and gel electrophoresis is. Students will then cartoon an electrophoresis gel depicting what is going on at a molecular level inside the gel.
    • Biggest teaching challenge: Running a debate can be a sensitive task for some people so it is good to have some ground rules and discuss with the entire class that this is an assignment and that individual vies are not necessarily being represented. It is helpful for the implementer to have a cue (e.g. hand raise) to maintain control of the debaters and classroom. Allow a 'pro' argument with a rebuttal and 'con' argument followed by a rebuttal. At the end of several rounds allow the rest of the class to participate in the discussion. During the conclusion of the debate have the 'pros' and 'cons' shake hands.

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