Forty advanced placement science students at Soldan International High School in St. Louis have submitted their DNA for testing with the National Geographic Society’s Genographic project. An article in the St. Louis-Post Dispatch highlights some of the statements made by the students and faculty:
“Many times students don’t see the relevance of what they’re learning,” said Assistant Principal Alice Manus, the Soldan project coordinator. “What they’re learning here will have all sorts of relevance because, really, we’re looking into their lives.”
One student, named John, had more reason to be excited about this test than most – his father died when he was only 13. “I never knew him that well,” said the Soldan sophomore. “Maybe this will tell me more about who he was and where he came from.”
I think this is a great way to introduce students to issues associated with genomic sequencing including the science, the societal impact, and the ethical issues. I do wonder, however, how the class afforded the testing. Sometimes companies will offer reduced rate packages to encourage testing. I would hate to think that this sort of project would only be available to affluent communities that can afford the price of the test (even the $99 test at the Genographic project).
Discovering Biology in a Digital World blogged about this yesterday. One of that post’s concerns was how a teacher would deal with potential non-paternal events revealed by the testing. This is definitely a valid concern, although it would be rare since non-paternal events are most often uncovered through comparative genetic genealogy.
I was especially shocked to read the comments at Discovering Biology in a Digital World. A comment left by a Christopher stated that he “had no idea that National Geographic had this Project – or that its actually open to the public as well.” Christoper, don’t you know that there’s an entire blog devoted to genetic genealogy?