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The Phenomenal Genome

Close-up of six different human eyes, showcasing a variety of eye colors and shapes.
The Phenomenal Genome

The color of your eyes depends on the interaction of multiple genes. For many human traits, non-genetic factors are also involved.

Evolving Public Understanding of Genetics in the Post-Mendelian Era

In an age of personalized medicine, gene-based therapies, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing, public understanding of genomics is a necessity. Yet the teaching and learning of the science of inheritance and biological variation is mired in a historical Mendelian framework, in which traits ostensibly controlled by a single gene are the primary focus. Students and the general public are being taught a simplified model of inheritance and biological variation that is out-of-sync with contemporary research and knowledge. 

The Phenomenal Genome project will address this gap in understanding by providing teachers and informal science educators with guidance on teaching genetics in a post-Mendelian framework, and will disseminate these findings to the field.

The project will focus on two main areas:

Teacher Professional Development

The Phenomenal Genome will develop an inquiry-based professional development program of activities and lesson plans to help middle and high school teachers integrate contemporary genetics into their teaching. 

Museum Exhibits and Programs 

The project will also develop contemporary genetics exhibits and other experiences for museum visitors. We will test these experiences with visitors, and study visitor learning.


This project was supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R25GM132926. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


Other SEPA-funded projects at the Exploratorium: