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Lesson 3-4: Environmental and Genetic Risk Factors

Page history last edited by mariaelizabethbunn@... 4 years, 12 months ago



Engaging the Student (Entry Task) 

Developing the Ideas--Lesson

Checking for Understanding (exit ticket)

Student Handout 
Teacher/Lesson Notes

90 min

 (15 minutes)


  1. Remind students of the  discussion in Lesson 3-3 and refer to the Venn diagram (if available) showing the intersection of Environmental Factors and Genetic Factors that determine different traits.
  2. Tell students that a factor (genetic /environmental) can be positive or negative. A positive factor is considered protective, and a negative factor is considered a risk. Ask students to think of an example of a protective factor and a risk factor for the  environment. 
  3. Tell students that genes can also be protective in nature, or add to a person’s risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes.
  4. Review the American Diabetes Risk Assessment with students, either using the online version or the paper version. Both are available HERE
  5.  Encourage students to play with the risk numbers in order to see which conditions lead to the highest risk for diabetes, and which conditions lead to the lowest. Allow students to take the test themselves if they choose to, but do not require students to share their results.
  6.  Discuss factors in the risk test over which people have control, or do not have control. Encourage discussion about how choices, access, genetic factors, and environmental factors affect the results of the risk assessment.


View the full lesson plan here:



Students dive more deeply into environmental and genetic risk factors for type 2 diabetes

and consider how these factors interact to reduce or increase risk. Students simulate

genetic predisposition by drawing colored beans to represent alleles, and weigh

environmental risk by assessing how access to resources and personal choice may increase or decrease risk factors over time.


Enduring understandings

  • The increase in type 2 diabetes nationally and globally appears to be associated with an increase in obesity, changes in diet to highly processed foods, a decrease in physical activity, as well as other factors.
  • Type 2 diabetes can be prevented: factors contributing to a person’s risk include good nutrition and exercise; personal choice; public health policies, access to resources, socioeconomic status, and stress.


Essential question

  • How do environmental and genetic risk factors influence a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes?


Learning objectives

Students will be able to:

    • Identify opportunities to increase or decrease risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
    • Interpret genetic information associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
    • Understand that genes do not influence the development of type 2 diabetes as much as behavior and lifestyle do, for the majority of people.


Prerequisite Knowledge

Students should have an understanding of the following terms: gene/genetic factor,

environmental factor, inheritance, risk, protein, allele.



This lesson provided by:  Type 2 Diabetes: A complex disease of gene and environment interactions. Copyright 2014 by University of Washington. This curriculum was created by Genome Sciences Education Outreach (GSEO) and is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) of the National Institutes of Health through Grant Number R25OD010966. Permission is granted to download, reproduce through printing or photocopying, and distribute copies of Type 2 Diabetes: A complex disease of gene and environment interactions for non-commercial, educational purposes only, provided that credit for the source (GSEO and copyright (© 2014 University of Washington) is given.

Per Class:


Per Student Pair:

  • Small Opaque bag filled with one of three combinations of bean or bead mixes (see full lesson plan):
    • Standard Mix 
    • Risk Mix
    • Protective Mix 



  • Copy of the film "Unnatural Causes" from California Newsreel. Can be ordered here.  


Ask students:


  1. Write down five factors that appear to be associated with an increase in type 2 diabetes. Have them then turn to a neighbor and compare lists. If time allows, create a class list on the board.
  2. Write down five factors that contribute to the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Again, have students turn to a neighbor and compare lists, and then create a class list if time allows.



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