My Inspiration

Earlier this month, I danced in Joanne Langione Dance Center’s (JLDC) end of year performance. The purpose of the performance is to showcase the hard work from the 1000+ students who commit hours of their lives to dance. As I look forward to my last year at JLDC, the dance studio that has become my second home, I have begun to reflect on my years as a dancer and how dance has changed my life.
I started dancing at JLDC in Newton, MA five years ago. I had taken ballet classes at a few other studios throughout my life but I never connected with the traditional and typically slow tempo of this dance style. When I started at JLDC I took an hour long tap class once a week and I fell in love with the loud, high tempo, and fun class. Each week I was excited to go to class, bang metal against wood to the sounds of modern music, and forget about my hectic week at school. Dance became a therapeutic ritual in my life that let me express myself in a completely different way and briefly escape my busy life. Each week as class ended I felt rejuvenated; I quickly wanted to learn more and improve my skills as a dancer. So, after my first year, I signed up for a jazz class in addition to my tap class.
Each year thereafter, I added a class or two—this year I will be spending four days a week at JLDC, taking six classes with a total of seven hours of dance! Dance has become such an important part of my life; it gives me the opportunity to express myself, forget about academics, and be a part of something meaningful and beautiful, which is often hard to do in the midst of school work, college prep, and other commitments. On the Dance for the Soul webpage it says dance increases “self awareness, self esteem and personal autonomy” and allows dancers to experience “links between thought, feeling, and action.” I have experienced these feelings of self-awareness and an increase in my self-esteem; and, every time I put on my dance shoes, I profoundly connect with my feelings, actions, and others.
CHEETA (Children Helping Empower Each other Through Art) was inspired by my experience with dance. My goal for CHEETA is to give children with disabilities the opportunity to experience the therapeutic benefits of dance and other arts. I want them to be able to learn about self-expression and self-awareness in a way that is different from the typical classroom setting. I hope for a successful kick off to CHEETA this summer at Camp Ramah New England and continue with the program in Boston in the Fall.

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(Me and my dance teacher for the past four years, Ashly Damaso, after this year’s performance.)

Dance, move, and empower,
Sierra

Independent Research and Design Project: Part 3

The knowledge of genetics, transcription, and translation that I gained during my Independent Research and Design project provided me with a foundation for my understanding of Down’s syndrome. After creating an understanding of how Down’s syndrome occurs genetically, I wanted to learn more about how to test for genetic diseases. I performed a simulation test where I was given the DNA of a family of 24 and their family pedigree. To create the simulation I made a gel with slots for the dyed DNA samples and then ran the dyes using two 9-V batteries for a set amount of time. After letting them run, I marked down the number of bands I saw in each row (see pictures below) and where on the gel they were located. As directed by the instruction manual, I had to decide if the disease that some members carried was hereditary, sex based, or random. The method I used in this experiment is not exactly how Down’s syndrome is tested for because Down’s syndrome tests use a karyotype, however, methodically the two tests are similar.

 

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After reviewing the results, I decided the disease in the family was a recessive trait because children who had the disease didn’t always have a parent who had the disease. If the disease was a dominant trait, then any couple where one parent had the disease would have at least one child with the disease.

Creating this simulation test was important for me to use in order to understand how newborns are tested for Down’s syndrome. It also gave me the skills needed to create tests like these and that I can use in science courses in the future. Please continue to read my blogs about my IRaD project; next blog will be about new, modern research!

Dance, move, and empower,

Sierra

Independent Research and Design Project: part 2

After I created an understanding of DNA, translation, and transcription in the first step of my IRaD project, I had another question: how do people end up so differently after going through the same genetic copying process? DNA strands make up chromosomes that define who we are as human beings. Every person has 23 chromosomes, each with two copies—one from each parent—so how could one small mistake make such a big difference?

In order to answer my question, I looked at the genetic makeup of my immediate family’s eye color. I used a family graph of my own family to understand how genes and chromosomes are passed on from parent to child. In my family, my mom has brown eyes, my dad has blue eyes, I have brown eyes, and my sister has blue eyes. Our family inheritance of eye color looks like this:


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My dad is homozygous and my mom is heterozygous and their children, my sister and I, are one of each. Based on my parents’ eye color, there are four possibilities for their children to be: Bb, bb, Bb, bb. My parents’ children have a fifty-fifty chance of having either brown or blue eyes7.

Genetics are very important to the understanding of Down’s syndrome because Down’s syndrome is a genetic mutation that is passed down from parent to child. It is caused by trisomy 21, when a child is born with three copies of chromosome 21. This can happen two ways. The first, and more common, is when one of the parent’s cells splits incorrectly and gives two chromosome 21s instead of the normal one. When this happens, then the child receives two chromosome 21s from one parent and one from the other creating a trisomy of chromosome 21. Given that this does not occur during the other parent’s cell during meiosis, the child will be born with Down’s syndrome.

The second and much less common way for a child to have Down’s syndrome is when there is a translocation of chromosomes 14 and 211. The rare translocation is when there is a chromosome 21 attached to the 14th chromosome of a parent that is then passed down through their cell and is the copy of chromosome 14 that is given to the child during meiosis3.

My knowledge of genetics, transcription, and translation provide a foundation for my understanding of Down’s syndrome. When there is an extra copy of chromosome 21, extra proteins for the third copy are made through transcription and translation. Having too much of most proteins interferes with normal functioning. In some cases, it can make something work extra which can possibly be extra helpful, but in other cases it can be extremely harmful and even cause a protein to just not work.

Dance, move, and empower,
Sierra