Teens Stake a Claim on Their DNA - and the Lessons Stick

By Gravitz, Lauren | The Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Teens Stake a Claim on Their DNA - and the Lessons Stick


Gravitz, Lauren, The Christian Science Monitor


At Fremont High School here in Oakland, biology lab goes beyond traditional frog dissection and uses a touch of performance art to get at important science lessons and the ethical issues behind them.

As part of his annual unit on genetics, 10th-grade biology teacher Steven Miller asks his students to "copyright" their DNA - a molecule that scientists believe to be the basis of human biology because it holds the blueprint for everything from the color of a person's hair to the shape of one's nose.

The copyrighting exercise is a way of establishing students' claim on their own DNA. It encourages them to think beyond the biological aspects of DNA and confront moral concerns sparked by the patenting and sale of genetic material.

The technique is easy and inexpensive. First, each student self- addresses an envelope. Standing next to the front page of the local newspaper, they pose for photos - tongue sticking out with postage stamp attached.

Human cheeks shed cells constantly inside the mouth. By licking a stamp, or the glue on an envelope, cheek cells on the tongue stick to the glue. As the glue dries, the cheek cells and their DNA are fixed into place.

The newspaper provides a date-stamp for the picture, and when the students mail the pictures to themselves, the government postmark on the sealed envelope makes the date official. When the process is complete, students have created what's known as a "poor person's copyright" for their DNA.

A similar process has long been used by artists and songwriters to informally copyright their work. Although the DNA version may not hold up in a courtroom, it serves Mr. Miller's purpose by making his lessons tangible.

"The problem teachers face is that we're presenting a lot of this material in an abstract way already, and the kids are getting antsy because we haven't been doing too many labs," Miller says. "So how do you raise the ethical questions - which the kids like - in a way that's got a hands-on aspect to it?"

Miller found his answer in the "DNA Project" (www.mudhaus.com/ marilyn). Founded by San Francisco artist Marilyn Donahue, the grass-roots venture aims to get people thinking about genetics research and patenting. Ms. Donahue sees her act of copyrighting DNA as a type of performance art that continues to have an impact.

She also wanted to help educate people about science, partly because of her background in pharmacology. "I saw that the public didn't get involved in scientific issues until it was too late, and then it would become a fear reaction. I think it's important that people get involved in the discussion at a much earlier point," she says.

Miller read about Donahue's project and is now in his second year of using the idea in his classroom. That's a move that pleases Donahue because, she says, "the children are inheriting this whole problem. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Teens Stake a Claim on Their DNA - and the Lessons Stick
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.