What’s up with Epigenetics?

Did you know that your choices can alter the way your DNA works – all without changing the “letters” that make up your genetic code? You may have heard of genetics, but what about epigenetics? It is a brand new field of science and was even recently featured on NPR!

In collaboration with epigenetic researcher, Dr. Mitchell Turker, at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, Let’s Get Healthy! developed a set of classroom lessons on the topic and an interactive video game that teaches about why our choices matter.

The epigenetics station debuted last month at St Helens Middle School, where

Students engage in Let’s Get Healthy! activities.

450 students attended the Let’s Get Healthy! fair that day.  Students could explore the interactive video game or DNA manipulatives to learn how epigenetic marks on our DNA can influence our health, our risk of disease, and can be passed to future generations.  Student understanding of epigenetics was measured using pre/post-surveys given in the classroom and through questions integrated into the game. In pre-surveys, only 8% of students had ever heard of the term “epigenetics” before.  After fair, students showed significant increases in their understanding of epigenetics and talked about it more frequently to their friends, teachers and family.

Learn more about epigenetics. Even better, play the game yourself!

This project was funded by a pilot project grant from the OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness and by the National Institutes of Health through a grant to the Interdisciplinary Center for Epigenetics, Science and Society (5P20HG00551).

Let’s Get Healthy! is funded by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health.  For more information, visit Let’s Get Healthy!

Submitted by Lisa Marriott, Associate Director, Let’s Get Healthy!