The Mystery Of Sickle Cell: Modeling Evolution In Varying Populations - Preview

The Mystery Of Sickle Cell: Modeling Evolution In Varying Populations

Subject: Biology
Time: 2-3 class periods (45 minutes each)

High School Biology (Regular, AP, or IB)

Lesson Overview

Students will use models to simulate how it is possible that sickle cell disease can exist in widely varying frequencies across multiple human populations. Each group will investigate varying factors that would affect allele frequency change and use this information to make predictions about how medicine or technology will influence these frequencies in the future.

Learner Objectives

  • How do genes cause diseases?
  • What factors can create a high incidence of genetic disease linked to recessive genes in a population?
  • How might genetic disorders be affected if it were dominant versus recessive?
  • Are mutations always harmful?
  • When might mutations become advantageous?


You may want to review the concepts of genes, alleles, and chromosomes. Students should also have a basic understanding of genotype vs. phenotype as well as dominant vs. recessive genes. It is also possible to introduce these concepts within the framework of this lesson. 

Compatible With




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Next Generation Science Standards
  • Life Science
    • [HS-LS3] Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
    • [HS-LS4] Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Computational Thinking in STEM
  • Modeling and Simulation Practices
    • Using Computational Models to Understand a Concept
  • Computational Problem Solving Practices
    • Assessing Different Approaches/Solutions to a Problem
  • Data Practices
    • Analyzing Data
    • Creating Data
  • Systems Thinking Practices
    • Investigating a Complex System as a Whole
    • Understanding the Relationships within a System

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