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Free Lesson Plan to Model the Odds of Developing an Autoimmune Disease

A new hands-on NGSS-aligned lesson plan helps student model the probability of getting an autoimmune disease and explore the range of factors that may contribute to these diseases.

Hard-shelled chocolate candies in a bowl next to six dice

Free Lesson Plan! Model the odds of getting an autoimmune disease. www.sciencebuddies.org

Today is National DNA Day, an annual celebration of the completion of the Human Genome Project. To support educators doing hands-on lessons on genetics, Science Buddies has released a new, free, NGSS-aligned lesson plan for high school classrooms that helps students explore the relationship between genetics and autoimmune diseases.

Genetics, the Environment, and Autoimmune Diseases

There are more than a hundred known autoimmune diseases today, and the numbers of people diagnosed with many of these diseases continue to rise. Some common autoimmune diseases include celiac disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Type 1 diabetes, Multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. What determines whether or not an individual will develop an autoimmune disease? The answer is not simple.

Many variables may be involved in whether or not a person develops an autoimmune disease, and identifying what triggers an autoimmune disease—or who will get one—isn't straightforward. Although scientists understand what an autoimmune disease does in the body, for each disease, there may be many contributing factors leading to someone developing the disease. In many cases, these factors may not be known or may not always lead to someone getting the disease.

While developing an autoimmune disease may involve both environmental and genetic factors, once someone has an autoimmune disease, what does that mean for other family members? Does someone have a higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease if it runs in the family? If someone in your family has one autoimmune disease, does that increase your odds of getting both that disease and/or any other autoimmune disease? Does someone who already has an autoimmune disease have a higher chance of developing other autoimmune diseases? These are some of the questions students may have and can talk about and explore in the Model the Chances of Getting an Autoimmune Disease lesson plan.

NGSS-aligned Lesson Plan for Modeling Autoimmune Disease Risk

The Model the Chances of Getting an Autoimmune Disease lesson plan outlines an activity in which students use M&M's® and dice to model a simplified autoimmune response and then apply the concept of probability to determine the chances of getting an autoimmune disease. Students do this activity and model the probability for people both with and without a predisposition for an autoimmune disease.

The Lesson Plan contains background information for the educator, prompts for classroom discussion, a guided activity, worksheet, slideshow, and assessment materials. View the Model the Chances of Getting an Autoimmune Disease lesson plan.

More Information and Related Lesson Plans

Development of Science Buddies' STEM Lesson Plans for K-12 educators is supported by the Cisco Foundation.

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