Type 2 Diabetes: A complex disease of gene and environment interactions

Diabetes: A complex disease of gene and environment interactions

The increase in type 2 diabetes nationally and globally gives meaningful context for learning about the genetic and environmental contributions to this challenging disease. In this unit, students learn about the role of glucose in the body, and how the failure of mechanisms that maintain balance result in chronic high blood glucose levels. Students consider genetic factors that contribute to the disease, as well as environmental factors that influence health, including social, political and economic structures. Throughout the unit, prevention and treatment are emphasized as students learn how good nutrition, exercise, personal choice, public health policies and community engagement can contribute to positive health outcomes. As a summative assignment, students create a Call to Action project, in which they implement direct, meaningful, and relevant actions in order to make a contribution towards combating diabetes within their community.

Why study type 2 diabetes? How can a health-related phenomenon be embedded in an NGSS-supported lesson? To answer both questions, check out this 50-second video from the CDC, included in Lesson One.

To see how data from the Diabetes Prevention Program can be used as the basis of a classroom discussion, please see our recently-published paper Socratic Seminar with Data: A Strategy to Support Student Discourse and Understanding

Click here for the entire Type 2 Diabetes curriculum, or access individual lessons and accompanying materials using the table below.

Lesson Description Class
Lesson 1
By reviewing data and asking questions, students are challenged to consider how to make a difference in the tremendous growth of type 2 diabetes (t2d) in the last 15 years. Students are introduced to different types of diabetes, risk factors, and treatment and prevention options. Biology / Health
Lesson 2 Students learn that glucose is the major energy source for most living organisms, including humans, and perform an experiment with two digestive enzymes to determine whether glucose is present in three types of milk. Biology / Health
Lesson 3 Students examine food labels to learn where calories come from, and use an activity calculator to determine durations of physical activity required for balancing calorie intake. Students learn that t2d can be prevented, and that factors contributing to a person's risk include access to good nutrition and exercise. Biology / Health
Lesson 4
Through a blood glucose homeostasis model using a game board and pasta pieces, students learn that blood glucose levels need to be maintained within specific ranges. Students learn that body systems work together to maintain this range, and t2d can develop over time if the mechanisms that maintain blood glucose levels are challenged and eventually fail. Biology / Health
Lesson 5
Students develop a detailed human body poster that shows how various organs and body systems are impacted by high blood glucose levels that can occur with t2d. Students also learn about classes of medications for t2d and their physiological targets. Biology / Health
Lesson 6 Students examine some of their own traits and discuss whether each trait is determined by genes, the environment, or a combination of both. Students are introduced to a variety of both genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Biology / Health
Lesson 7
Powerpoint Poster
Students dive more deeply into environmental and genetic risk factors for type 2 diabetes and consider how these factors interact to reduce or increase risk. Students simulate genetic predisposition to assess risk and weigh how access to resources and personal choice may increase or decrease risk factors over time. Biology / Health
Lesson 8
Students are introduced to a variety of viewpoints concerning the rising rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity, and consider how public health policies may, or may not, change individual behaviors. Students participate in an issue-driven Structured Academic Controversy and learn how to use an ethical framework to help justify their position on an issue. Biology / Health
Call to Action Students synthesize and apply their learning throughout the unit by creating a project that addresses a specific diabetes-related problem and contributes to a solution. Successful Call to Action projects will implement direct, meaningful, and relevant actions in order to make a contribution towards combatting diabetes within the students' communities. Biology / Health
The appendix to the Type 2 Diabetes unit contains a mix-and-match set of resources to augment student understanding of this topic and create thoughtful Call to Action products. The resources include additional science content and student support materials. Biology / Health
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