Presentation of Learning
At their finest, science classes help learners understand and interpret the natural world and their experience of it. iLEAD Exploration 10th grade learner Halston Van Atta had just such an experience completing a project in an iLEAD Online Biology class last term.
Halston grew up surrounded by cats. From foster kittens to resident cats, there was always some kitty roaming around her house. With so many cats in her life, she began to wonder why so few of the cats she knew were calicos. And to complicate the question further, the few calicos she did know were all female.
But, wait: “What is a calico cat?” you ask. Good question! A “calico” is not a breed of cat, such as a Maine Coon or Siamese or British Shorthair. Rather, it is a special pattern of coloring that mixes patches of black and orange fur with a white undercarriage. A cat’s fur color is a genetic trait determined by the X chromosome provided by the cat’s mother.
Halston chose to explore calicos and their genetics in her final biology project so she could understand how calico fur is expressed genetically and why it’s rare in female cats and exceedingly rare in male cats.
In one corner of her visually pleasing project, Halson included a comparison of male and female calico cats and “normal” male and female calico cats. She chose to include this to accurately demonstrate the comparison and show how complicated and rare calicos really are. In the bottom left, the X and Y chromosomes are depicted as well as the patterns they use for creating calicos. Halston finished off her project by including cutouts of calicos and solid-colored cats to visually illustrate calicos vs. typical cats and the chromosomes needed to express those traits.
Even though this was an academic project and she did have to incorporate molecular algorithms and explain how chromosomes work, Halston still had fun expressing herself and her creativity through the project. Though this project was a bit stressful and she made a few mistakes, Halston encourages her fellow learners to embrace their creativity and express it in their schoolwork as well.
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