Children around the country participated in Jeans for Genes day today to raise money for children with genetic disorders. The charity have a wealth of information on their website which raises awareness and provides us with case studies. It is hugely important that when we involve children in fundraising they really engage with the purpose of the charity because this is how we bring meaning to the act of ‘giving’ and also how we help the children to appreciate what they have, whilst developing empathy for others. However the task of helping young children understand what genes are and the consequences of having faulty genes is quite tricky to explain. We worked hard in assembly to connect the children to this concept.
First we talked about jeans you wear and genes inside you…
The jeans ‘outside us’ we wear at weekends and the genes ‘inside us’ are there all the time and make us who we are. They give us our eye colour, our hair colour, our skin colour and the shape of our face. They might give us freckles and they will also determine how tall we are when we grow up.
The wonderful thing about genes is that everybody has different ones and that means no one person can be the same as us – we are all unique!
This picture of my own children helped everyone to understand that even children from the same family have different genes.
They might look similar but never exactly the same, unless…
You are an identical twin! We have identical twins at Grimsdell so we were lucky to get their help in demonstrating that identical twins do share the same genes and that is why they look exactly the same.
Still, it is hard for children to understand what genes are when you can’t see them, so we described them as Lego pieces…
When you make a Lego model you have to follow the instructions and build the pieces in a particular way. If you don’t follow the instructions your Lego model might look different from the one on the box. If you don’t put the wheels on a Lego car it won’t be able to move and if you don’t build your model on a base it might not be able to stand properly.
It is the same with genes in children, if there is a problem with the way they are put together it means their bodies might not work in the same way as other people’s – and that can make life more difficult.
So we watched a short film about a little girl called Skye who has Retts Syndrome. It is such a positive film because whilst it highlights her difficulties and it also shows how proud Skye’s mother is of her and talks of what she can do, thanks to the help of Jeans for Genes donations.
We concluded by looking at a picture of a one pound coin! The children were eager to bring in this shiny coin and wear their jeans so that they can help children like Skye.
Watching the children come in wearing their jeans and clutching the shiny coin this morning was really heartening. They may not have grasped the full biological complexities of DNA, but they did appreciate that we have genes inside us (as well as ones we wear) and that we were giving £1.00 to help children who had problems with their genes to lead a happy and fulfilling life.