Lesson Plan: Genetics and Art

“Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution” UMMA exhibition, 2001

Objective

Students will discuss the connections between science and art, specifically focusing on how artists perceive and represent genetics.

National Core Standards

  • Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work 

Grades

2-12

Time Required

One or two class periods

Materials

  • The Daily DNA newsletter, optional resource
  • Access to websites and online images

Lesson

  1. Introduce the concept of genetics, adjusting to the level of your students: “Genes are information, inside our bodies, created by chemicals in our cells and arranged in a specific order. That order gives an organism—a plant, an animal, or you—instructions to produce a set of traits. For example, one set of genes tells a tulip to be yellow while another set tells it to grow purple. Our genes make us have brown, green, or blue eyes, have arches on our feet, be shy, or have some diseases.” (from The Daily DNA, 2001).

  2. Explain that some artists are interested in the connections between science and art. This lesson doesn’t necessarily explain what genes do or how they work, but it explores how artists think about new directions in genetics.

  3. Set up your classroom in five small-group stations and ask students to rotate through them. Add or delete stations depending on the level of your students. The following stations are based on activities in The Daily DNA, a newsletter that accompanied University of Michigan Museum of Art’s 2001 Exhibition “Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution.”

    Station 1: Designer Food

    Would you want to eat pizza-flavored ice cream? Some foods are genetically modified, and some people say this is an improvement because they can contain more vitamins or are more resistant to pests. However, some people argue that these changes are dangerous to people with allergies and erase biological diversity. What do you think? If you could imagine and design any “super food,” what would it be? What would it taste / look / feel like?

    Station 2: DNA Portraits

    Most portraits show the way a person looks on the outside. Often they make them look beautiful or strong or important. DNA or chromosome portraits show chemical or biological information about a person. Every portrait is unique. Observe DNA portraits created by DNA 11 (http://www.dna11.com/). These look like abstract lines but are expanded images of an individual’s DNA, fingerprint, or lip print. Students can use stamp pads and create their own fingerprint portraits, overlaying colors and prints to make a unique abstract design.

    Station 3: Hybrid Pets
    Observe images by artist Eva Sutton: http://www.evasutton.com/installations/ She has created hybrids and mutations. Can you tell which animals are combined? What would be some advantages to hybrid animals or pets? Design your own hybrid: draw a picture of it and write a caption that describes its special traits and abilities.

    Station 4: Your Own Genes
    Why do you think someone would want to “own” her own genes, copyrighting his/her own genetic code? What information would you want to share with others; what would you want to keep secret? Print a list of questions that students could discuss including: Who has the right to access genetic information? Should people be forced to give up their genetic info in the interest of science, to create new medications or cures? Older students can read and discuss articles about Iceland’s deCode project: (http://www.evasutton.com/installations/).

    Students can create a personal genetic certificate, listing unique traits that they individually own. Templates of certificates can be made in advance, or students can design their own.            

    Station 5: Create a Superhero
    Geneticists are studying genes to help people who are sick. Most people think it is good to create new medicines, prevent diseases, and work on developing new surgeries. But what if scientists try to make a “super” healthy person? Can our healthy bodies be better than they already are? If you could design a “superbody,” what traits would it have? X-ray vision eyes? Super jumping legs? Gadget arms? Draw your superbody and label its ideal traits.

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Tags
Art — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)
Dna — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)
Genes — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)
Genetics — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:41 am)
Hybrid — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)
Lesson — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)
Modified — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)
Science — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:41 am)
Superhero — by John Turner (October 11 2016 @ 11:42 am)

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