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Gene Switches

Source Institutions

    Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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Gene Switches

In this activity, learners explore how genetic switches function and the role of genetic switches in the process of evolution. To make these concepts less abstract and more understandable, learners first view a series of video clips and animations from the HHMI DVD (or online) "Evolution: Constant Change and Common Threads." Then, learners construct a model of a gene switch using craft materials or FridgiGears (magnetic gears). This activity can be done as a demonstration, a student inquiry activity, or a combination of the two.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Computer with DVD drive and LCD projector or DVD player and LCD projector or monitor. An alternative to the DVD is a computer with access to the Internet
  • Assorted materials for constructing models (such as Play-doh or clay, yarn, pipe cleaners, plastic beads, paperclips, etc.) OR FridgiGears, magnetic white board, several 12" lengths of yarn, photocopied sets of gears


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
      • Biodiversity
    • Ecology
      • Populations
      • Biodiversity
    • Evolution
      • Evidence for Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
      • History of Life
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Patterns of Heredity
      • DNA Structure and Function
  • Mathematics
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

Includes assesments for student learning

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Colvard, Mary


  • All Rights Reserved, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, ©2010


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