Independent Research and Design: Part 1

As promised in my last blog, here is the first section of my Independent Research and Design (IRaD) final research paper.  This part of my paper provides the details of DNA transcription and translation explaining the basics of our genetic makeup.  It is important to understand the structure and function of DNA before diving too deep in the study of Down’s syndrome because Down’s syndrome is a genetic disease and is caused by a mutation in the DNA structure.

At the beginning of the academic year, I learned about DNA’s double helix and the formation of adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine.  Together, these four monomers create a specific order within the DNA strand and are held together by a chemically bonded sugar-phosphate backbone.  This bond is much stronger than the hydrogen bond that hold the two strands of a double helix together, which is very important because the DNA strand is in a very specific order—although it can be ordered various ways depending on the person—and needs to stay in the specific order it starts in at all times4.

DNA strands are used to produce proteins through a process using different types of RNA, each with different jobs.  The three different types of RNA make the transcription and translation process happen. The first is the messenger RNA, mRNA, which is used to make “copies” of small segments of DNA.   Ribosomal RNA, rRNA, reads the mRNA copy and makes the protein that it codes for.  The last is the transfer RNA, tRNA, which brings an amino acid needed to make the proper protein to the scene, bringing the whole process together2,4,8, 9*.

Transcription, which takes place in the nucleus, is initiated when RNA polymerase attaches to the promoter and opens the DNA, beginning to match RNA nucleotides to the template strand.  Next, it is continued to be elongated in the elongation phase and the mRNA peels away from the DNA strand.  Finally, the process reaches termination when the polymerase gets to the stop message.  When this happens, the mRNA copy comes off and the RNA strand closes. The mRNA is a copy of the DNA strand where thymine is replaced by uracil.   The point of transcription is to create an mRNA copy of the DNA strand in order to use it to make a protein on the ribosome2,4, 8, 9.

Translation follows similar steps to transcription but starts where transcription left off.  The initiation is with tRNA when it attaches with the RNA strand as AUG, the start codon.   The tRNA has an anti-codon at the bottom of its T shaped structure that will match the mRNA code that it attaches with and has an amino acid on the top of it.  As the tRNAs attach the amino acids on top create a long chain of amino acids that is in direct relation to the original DNA strand.  The amino acids combine to become the proteins that the gene stands for2, 4, 8, 9.

*All the citations are listed in the bibliography that can be found in the documents section of my blog.

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra

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The Genetics of Down’s Syndrome and the Benefits of Dance

 

Throughout my volunteer work with children with special needs, I often heard “why do people end up with disabilities?” and “how does Gd allow this to happen to people?”.  Questions like these were common but usually did not receive an answer.

 

I always held the opinion that people with special needs were indeed special; placed on this Earth to teach the rest of us to take the time to appreciate the simpler things in life and to humble us with their views of the world. This seemed clear to me, however, I did not know the scientific reasons for people with disabilities. 

 

Therefore, at the beginning of my Junior year at Gann Academy, I proposed to conduct an Independent Research and Design (IRaD) project to learn more about the scientific reasons for people with disabilities.  Initially, I wanted to research the genetic “mutations” that lead to many of the more common disabilities and how dance can possibly have a positive effect on different disabilities.  As I started my project, I narrowed my research to only the study of Down’s syndrome because it is a strictly genetic mutation.    

 

In creating CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art), it is essential for me to better understand the science of children with special needs.  The insight from my IRaD project will influence the movements of my dance classes and help create the most effective dance program for children with special needs.

 

As part of my IRaD project I wrote a research paper and I presented my work to a panel of teachers earlier this afternoon.  Over the next few weeks, I will post my research paper in sections on my blog to exhibit my findings.  The bibliography for my work will be in the documents section of my blog page and citations throughout my next few blogs will direct you to other sources.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Down’s syndrome and the positive effects of dance!

ImageDance, move, empower,

Sierra

Dancing at Gateways

Last summer at Camp Ramah New England (CRNE) I set up a dance therapy program for the Tikvah campers, unfortunately the dance therapist who was supposed to run the program had to cancel at the last minute. As a result, I was asked to teach the Tikvah campers a dance to be performed for the entire CRNE community. The experience showed me firsthand the benefits of dance therapy and inspired me to bring dance therapy to the special needs community of Boston through CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art).

Since seeing the smiles on the faces of the Tikvah campers as they learned the dance for their performance, I have wanted to empower more children with dance therapy and today I was given that opportunity at Gateways Access to Jewish Life (jgateways.org, if you are interested or know anyone who may be interested in volunteering, applications for new volunteers come out tomorrow!). This morning as we continued our celebration of Israel’s birthday, Liz Offen, coordinator at Greater Boston Yachad and teacher at Gateways, knowing about my work to start CHEETA in the Fall, asked me to teach an Israeli dance to the students. I chose one of my favorite dance songs from camp, the Miami Boys’ Hinai Matov, and used moves to create a dance that would best fit the students in my classroom. Taking it one step at a time, we learned the dance together making sure everyone knew the steps before moving on to new ones. It was so nice to see the volunteers and the students learning the dance together, interacting in a more casual and high energy way than we usually do in the classroom. Throughout the whole dance, I heard laughter from the students and I saw smiles on the volunteers’ faces as they watched their student follow directions and have fun learning the dance.

Today was prospective volunteer day at Gateways so there were many visitors coming in and out of our classroom while I was teaching the dance. The students were so engaged in learning the dance that they remained calm and focused even with all the visitors. Several of the prospective volunteers said they enjoyed watching the dance program and thought the students looked really happy; it was exciting to hear such positive feedback.

This morning’s experience at Gateways is a great example of the benefits of dance therapy for children with special needs and gives me more inspiration for CHEETA.

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra