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Building on knowledge from elementary school (plants and animals have life cycles and offspring resemble their parents) and knowledge from middle school (reproduction, Mendelian Genetics, inherited traits and diversity of species), this topic focuses on the explanation of genetic patterns of inheritance. In middle school, students learn that living things are a result of one or two parents, and traits are passed on to the next generation through both asexual and sexual reproduction. In addition, they learn that traits are defined by instructions encoded in many discrete genes and that a gene may come in more than one form called alleles.
It is imperative that the technological developments that lead to the current knowledge of heredity be included in the study of heredity. For example, the development of the model for DNA structure was the result of the use of technology and the studies and ideas of many scientists. Watson and Crick developed the final model, but did not do the original studies.
In high school biology, Mendel’s laws of inheritance (introduced in grade 8) are interwoven with current knowledge of DNA and chromosome structure and function to build toward basic knowledge of modern genetics. Sorting and recombination of genes in sexual reproduction and meiosis specifically result in a variance in traits of the offspring of any two parents and explicitly connect the knowledge to evolution.
At the high school level, the explanation of genes is expanded to include the following concepts:
The gene interactions described in middle school were limited primarily to dominance and co- dominance traits. In high school genetic mechanisms, both classical and modern including incomplete dominance, sex-linked traits, goodness of fit test (Chi-square) and dihybrid crosses are investigated through real-world examples. Dihybrid crosses can be used to explore linkage groups. Gene interactions and phenotypic effects can be introduced using real-world examples (e.g. polygenic inheritance, epistasis, and pleiotrophy).