Genetics Curriculum



In the spring of 1999 the UAB Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD) in partnership with the Birmingham City Schools (BCS) initiated the development of an innovative genetics curriculum for high school students. Scientists, science educators, veteran science teachers, and representatives from the Board of Education worked together to develop the curriculum. The objectives for students completing this course are:

Content - Explain the composition and organization of DNA and the flow of genetic information from gene to protein.

Technique/Process/Inquiry - Understand, appreciate, and be able to perform the techniques of molecular biology. Design experiments employing the techniques of molecular biology.

Real-life Application - Understand and evaluate current events in research and biotechnology. State and defend a personal position regarding ethical issues in biotechnology and research.


The course has several components. The core of the course is the Laboratory Manual that contains experiments developed to explore topics spanning classical Mendelian genetics, cytogenetics, the molecular basis of human disease, and applications of genetics in current biotechnology.


The lecture and reading material originate from the textbook Concepts of Genetics by Klug and Cummings. This text is targeted to both high-end high school and college genetics courses and covers both classical and molecular genetics. To help teachers adapt this book to the high school classroom pertinent material has been identified.

In addition to the lecture and laboratory elements of the course, three dynamic components are part of the curriculum.

A large group discussion provides a vehicle for instruction, yet the students are encouraged to formulate their own opinions on genetic issues facing society. Currently, the large group discussions focus on Huntington's Disease and issues pertaining to the disease such as genetic testing, genetic privacy and discrimination, and the differences between having the mutation for a genetic disease and manifesting symptoms of the disease. An article printed in the Utah news, Generations of tears, genetic disease stalks a Utah family, (September 1999) is provided to the students. The instructors are provided with the article, as well as background material and questions to facilitate the discussion.

To learn more about noteworthy topics in genetics, small group presentations are another component of the curriculum. Examples of the topics covered include sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, genetic testing, agricultural genetic engineering, and the Human Genome Project. These presentations promote research and presentation skills, in addition to fostering discussions about issues confronting society.

The third component of the curriculum is the Science Enrichment Lecture Series. The topics for the lecture series augment the curriculum and create a forum in which researchers and clinicians present the latest research developments in a student friendly environment, the classroom. Two examples of past lectures are "Genetic strategies for correcting sickle cell disease and other blood disorders" presented by Dr. Tim Townes, Chair of UAB's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and "Prenatal detection of genetic disorders" presented by Dr. Paula Cosper, Director of Prenatal Cytogenetics at UAB. The interaction between UAB faculty and BCS students is designed to inform the students about research, as well as expose them to the research process, and the career path necessary to become a researcher or clinician. While the laboratory exercises and lectures provide content material, the interactive components encourage the students to apply the content material and formulate opinions regarding the impact of genetics in their lives.

For teachers interested in teaching this course UAB CORD and BCS provide training through the summer Genetics and Microbiology Institutes.

Development of the Genetics Curriculum is a collaborative effort between UAB’s Center for Community Outreach Development (CORD), Birmingham City Schools (BCS), and McWane Center.

Grant support comes from a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health


Please contact UAB-CORD via e-mail at or via phone at 934-5171 for more information about the Genetics Curriculum.