Sickle Cell Anemia Investigation

I want to share how I am leading my students through our unit on molecular biology with a narrative of sickle cell anemia (SCA).

Day 1: Introduce the problem of sickle cell anemia

Living with sickle cell disease Shaniya’s story is a video produced by St. Jude’s Medical Research Hospital. It introduces the real life struggles of a courageous high school student who has Sickle Cell Anemia. Having a narrative that the kids can cling to really helps to engage them in the value of learning about this topic. \

Next, I introduced the driving questions or problem that we will be looking at. 

#1 How does the gene for sickle cell anemia cause such dramatic changes in people’s health?

#2 Why has the disease sickle cell anemia become such a widespread problem in certain regions of the world?

I showed the students an image of where the incidence of SCA is in the world.

This is a pause about 20 min. into a 45 minute lesson to get students moving and assess whether they have learned anything and are willing to learn.

I collected these and read them to the class in four minutes. I am careful to praise genuine curiosity and correct early misconceptions about the concept.

Do not apologize for asking for memorization from your students early in a learning cycle. Higher levels of understanding can only come with fundamental vocabulary and clarity. This diagram is simple for my introductory biology course.

At the end of class I made students diagram the process of protein synthesis. They had to copy this diagram three times in their lab notebooks for homework.