Personal Genetics Education Project

Graffiti of DNA - by Kim PiotrowskiOur mission:

The mission of the Personal Genetics Education Project is to raise awareness of personal genetics. We make that awareness equally accessible across all segments of society regardless of socioeconomic, educational, ethnic, religious, or cultural background, and instill confidence in individuals to ask questions, make informed decisions, and respect the opinions of others. Our strategy is varied and includes:

Educating through schools
We develop and share – free of charge – high quality and scientifically precise lesson plans related to personal genetics. We also offer professional development workshops that train teachers to integrate these materials into their classrooms. For teachers seeking information or support in using our materials, please contact Lauren Tomaselli at ltomaselli@pged.med.harvard.edu.

Engaging the public
The curricular materials and additional resources on our website provide educational information for people interested in learning about personal genetics. Our outreach efforts include speaking at conferences, giving lectures and workshops, and visiting high school and college classrooms in person, as well as via videoconferencing. For more information on requesting a visit, please email Dana Waring at dwaring@pged.med.harvard.edu.

Accelerating awareness
pgEd is engaged in the following initiatives for accelerating public awareness about personal genetics. For more information or to collaborate with pgEd, please contact Marnie Gelbart at mgelbart@pged.med.harvard.edu.

» Interfacing with producers and writers in the entertainment industry
pgEd is working with producers and writers through Hollywood, Health & Society at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, the Science & Entertainment Exchange of the National Academy of Sciences and Shaftesbury Productions of Canada to introduce genetic concepts and inform the public about how to interpret genetic information.

» Engaging policymakers through a Congressional briefing
pgEd organized its first Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. in May 2014 to advance a new initiative to engage our nation’s lawmakers. Organized in cooperation with the Office of the Honorable Louise M. Slaughter, House of Representatives, the briefing focused on the importance of raising public awareness. pgEd brought together renowned experts in research, education, and community engagement to highlight recent developments in the fields of genetics, personalized medicine, and genetic engineering as well as successful strategies for engaging the public. As a result of the immense interest, plans are underway for a second briefing on this topic.

» Promoting genetics awareness via an on-line game, Map-Ed
In March 2013, pgEd launched the Map-Ed game to infuse a viral energy into personal genetics education. Available at Map-Ed.org, Map-Ed invites players to work through short quizzes on key concepts and topics in genetics and pin themselves on our map of the world. Map-Ed is designed to be accessible to a general audience and has spread across all 7 continents, 99 countries, and all 50 U.S. states. Map-Ed is currently on display in the Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History. We are expanding Map-Ed to include new questions and translations. Click here to see the interactive map and a timeline of Map-Ed milestones.

» Developing on-line videos, “Personal Conversations/Personal Genetics”
pgEd has launched a video series, called “Personal Conversations/Personal Genetics,” produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marilyn Ness and Big Mouth Productions. These video vignettes relate insights, experiences, and visions for the future of personal genetics and invite viewers to “join the conversation.”

» Accelerating public awareness at the GETed Conference
pgEd organizes the GETed conference, which brings together experts in education, genetics research, health, entertainment, and policy to brainstorm strategies for raising awareness about personal genetics. In 2012 and 2013, we held GETed in conjunction with the Personal Genome Project’s Genomes Environments Traits (GET) Conference in order to inspire an atmosphere for tackling current educational challenges with an eye to future demands as genomics expands into new domains. GETed embraces a ‘let’s-get-it-done’ attitude towards developing new educational tools, networks, and collaborations that will advance the mission of accelerating awareness.

» Other activities: Serving on the education advisory board for the Smithsonian’s Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibit, working with the Boston Museum of Science, advising educational efforts.

Our working definition of personal genetics:

pgEd considers the term personal genetics to be all-inclusive, reflecting the many influences that shape a person’s health, appearance, and the numerous other traits that make each individual unique. Thus, in our minds, personal genetics refers to an individual’s unique code of DNA (personal genome) as well as the factors that make each person’s genome dynamic over the course of a lifetime. These include:

  • DNA from the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and yeast and other fungi that live in and on a person’s body (the microbiome);
  • the occurrence of mutations that change the DNA in a single cell and its descendants (mosaicism);
  • and the presence of genetically distinct cells in a person’s body that originate from another individual, for example, in people who have received bone marrow transplants or women who have carried a pregnancy (chimerism).

In addition, personal genetics reflects the influences of a person’s environment, lifestyle, and social experiences on gene activity (epigenetics).

As a result, one of pgEd’s favorite messages to share with audiences is that our genes are only part of a much more complex story of who we are and what our future holds. The growing field of personal genetics is at the intersection of science and society; it is both an exploration into the complex interactions through which our genes and our environment influence our physical, mental and behavioral states as well as an on-going conversation on the meaning for individuals and society.

Download our brochure:

Click here to download our 2014 brochure summarizing our mission and programs.

 

photo by Kim Piotrowski, www.kipi.etsy.com