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Eric Harrington


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"I believe that you must do science to learn science," Eric Harrington told Education World. "So I'm always trying to incorporate hands-on activities that challenge and motivate my students. I also like to have students realize the real-life applications of the content we're studying in class. We bring the science text to life through hands-on activities."

Genetics determines each doll's hair color.

Harrington recently designed a "Genetics: Inherited Traits Lab", a project that was so successful he shared his seventh grade life science students' work online. In that activity, students produced dolls that displayed genetic traits they created through their lab work.

"My students were really excited about the idea of making a person represented by a doll," said Harrington. "They were intrigued about the content and about actually making the person. The activity allowed students to see all the aspects of genetics that we had studied and how they came together to make a person.

In the activity, students at St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano (California) used Mendel's law, Punnett squares, probability, alleles, dominant traits, recessive traits, and co-dominance to construct "people." They then transferred the results on paper to a doll -- a doll with the traits determined by their inheritance lab activities. When the work was finished, the dolls were donated to the Orange County Sheriff's Department for distribution.

Students take a break from traditional instruction as they add dolls' features.

"Part of the core values of our school is community service," Harrington explained. "We seek diversity and acknowledge the dignity of each individual within a community framework that emphasizes teamwork, mutual respect, service, and commitment to the common good. My students thought it was a great idea to give the dolls to others who would enjoy them."

Harrington received great support from school administration to make the activity possible. His students enjoyed the

Eric Harrington poses with students and their completed "dolls by design."

departure from traditional instruction, and he reports that it was exciting to see all the different dolls that were created, with variations as unique as real people.

"I hope my students gain a love and desire to learn science and to pursue further investigations in the field," added Harrington. "I like to refer to my students as future scientists in training."

Photos provided by Eric Harrington.

Coming Soon...

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

02/03/2006