Understanding Inheritance in Corn (UnICORN)

|Overview| |Personnel| |Publications| |Presentations|

Project Overview
Given the perplexing nature of real-world challenges like genetically modified organisms in human food systems, all students must develop robust knowledge of genetics and principles of inheritance. Previous findings suggest genetics is challenging for learners across various age groups due to complexity in vocabulary, abstraction, and varying organization levels (molecular, cellular and organismal) inherent to its learning (Anderson, 2014; Elmesky, 2013; Knippels, 2002; Ronald, 2011; Roseman et al., 2006). While prior work has shown that elementary students are capable of comprehending basic concepts that underlie genetics and inheritance, very few studies have described students’ understanding of genetics and inheritance at an elementary level. Over four years, we will develop, implement, and study the impact of an 8-week, 3rd-grade science unit focused on a particular production system – corn – to promote student learning about core life sciences concepts emphasized in the Nebraska State Science Standards and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Stay up to date with current news associated with the UnICORN project here.

Project Personnel
Cory Forbes – Principal Investigator

Dante Cisterna, Postdoctoral STEM Fellow, School of Natural Resources, UNL

Nancy Theodor, Undergraduate Research Assistant, UNL

Project Publications

Cisterna, D., Ingram, E., Bhattacharya, D., Roy, R., & Forbes, C.T. (in press). Decoding the corn field: Building students’ ideas about plant inheritance and variation. Science and Children

Cisterna, D., Forbes, C.T., & Roy, R. (2019).  Model-based teaching and learning about inheritance in 3rd-grade science. International Journal of Science Education, 41(15), 2177-2199.

Forbes, C.T., Cisterna, D., Bhattacharya, D., & Roy, R. (2019).  Modeling elementary students’ ideas about heredity: A comparison of a curricular intervention. American Biology Teacher, 81(9), 626-635.

Project Presentations

Bhattacharya, D., Ingram, E., Forbes, C., Cisterna, D. (2018, March). Using agriculture as a context for teaching genetics in elementary classrooms: Insights from UnICORN (Understanding Inheritance in CORN). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association (NARST/NSTA sponsored session), Atlanta, GA.

Cisterna, D., Bhattacharya, D., Vo, T., Zangori, L., & Forbes, C.T., (2018, March). Examining multiple programs to supporting K-12 teachers’ instruction about water using scientific models. Submitted to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), 2018 Annual International Conference, Atlanta, GA.

Bhattacharya, D., Forbes, C.T., Ingram, E., Hawley, L., Stevens, J. & Cisterna, D. (2018, March).  Developing 3rd-grade students’ understanding of inheritance using a model-based curriculum. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Atlanta, GA.

Bhattacharya, D., Forbes, C.T., Ingram, E., Hawley, L., Stevens, J. & Cisterna, D. (2018, March).  Supporting scientific modeling practices in elementary science instruction about inheritance. Poster presented at annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Atlanta, GA.

Bhattacharya, D., Derowitsch A., Forbes, C.T., Ingram, E., & Kegley, M. (2017, September).  Using corn as a model organism to foster elementary students’ understanding of core concepts about plant life cycle, inheritance and genetic variation. Presentation at the annual meeting of the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science (NATS), Kearney, NE.

Bhattacharya, D., Forbes, C.T., Ingram, E. (2017, January). Using corn as a model organism to foster 3rd-grade students’ learning of inheritance. Experiential session presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of Science Teacher Education (ASTE), Des Moines, IA.

Bhattacharya, D., Ingram, E., Forbes, C.T., Wolken, T., & Kegley, M. (2017, April).  Using corn to foster elementary students’ understanding of plant life cycle, inheritance and genetic variation. Paper presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), San Antonio, TX.