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March 07, 2018 Wednesday 01:03:00 PM IST

Concentrating on their “personal DNA and genealogies”, middle-school students seem to have learned as much as peers who used “case studies”, says a Penn State researcher. “We noticed that both groups got the content, but once all was said and done, the case study group would have preferred to do the work on themselves,” says Elizabeth Wright, a postdoctoral scholar at Nina Jablonski, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology, Penn State. At a camp held at Penn State, the University of South Carolina, and the American Museum of Natural History, middle-school scientists sought answers to the question “Who am I?”Among other topics at the camp were instruction and investigation into personal DNA, family genealogy, anthropology, health, and evolution. Three sets of campers studied their personal family histories and DNA while another group focused on case-study data. A fifth group became the basis for an online video series “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings”. “The initial data support our hypothesis that middle-school students prefer learning about themselves,” says Wright. “While learning gains were the same between the personal and case-study camps, as soon as the case-study campers had the opportunity to do personalised research, most campers took it.”