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Series Info

Episodes: 5

Length: 25 min.

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12


Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


Cracking the Code: The Continuing Saga of Genetics

This series incorporates traditional teachings on genetics with a new sphere of knowledge. The series will cover the history of genetics to what is happening today and bring to life some of the ethical dilemmas and scenarios for the future. An expansive teachers guide and website are available.

Episode Guide

1. Peas in a Pod — The story of genetics begins with the observation that a child often resembles their parents. We also learn that in the 1860’s, Gregor Mendel preformed cross-breeding experiments with pea plants from which he deduced the basic laws of inheritance.

2. Microscopes, Mutants, and Microbes — New technology led to new investigations into the process of reproductions in the late 19th century. A female scientist, Nellie Stevens, contributed to the identification of gender-determination by a specific chromosome. At Columbia University, Thomas Hunt Morgan’s work breeding fruit flies supported the idea that traits could be manipulated through selected breeding.

3. The DNA Obsession — Follows scientists as they explored chromosomes, then genes, and finally DNA. The science of biochemistry allowed a new era of experiments, some of which are reconstructed in the video. In the 1940’s, scientists showed that only DNA could perform the role of the genetic blueprint. Then, Watson and Crick came up with the now famous double-helix structure of DNA that would fit all the requirements.

4. The Gene Machine — Looks at how Watson & Crick’s breakthrough led to the DNA-based technological revolution. In the 1960’s, Nirenberg finally cracked the genetic code, which turned out to be common to all living organisms. This made the insertion of a foreign gene theoretically possible. In the 1970’s, scientists learned how to manipulate and then clone DNA.

5. The Seeds of A New Era — Examines the effects of the DNA-based revolution on agriculture. The worries raised by this form of genetic engineering are discussed. The movement into food crops, which have been genetically modified to resist disease and pests, modify flavor, and improve nutritional value and shelf life will be compared with traditional cross-breeding methods.

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