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Your Genes: Your FutureYour-Genes-Your-Future

  • Subject:
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • review healthy behaviors;
  • choose one of their own behaviors they'd like to change or improve; and
  • write a letter to themselves pledging to make that change, detailing why it's important to their health and outlining how they might enact the change.


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print and online resources about healthy behaviors (exercise) and dangerous and unhealthy behaviors (smoking, taking drugs, drinking alcohol)


1. After watching the video, ask students: How would you describe a healthy person? Write their answers on the board. Possible answers include

  • exercises often,
  • eats healthy foods,
  • doesn't eat a lot of junk food,
  • doesn't do drugs, and
  • talks about their problems with someone.

2. Ask students to write down an aspect of their lifestyle that they'd like to change or improve-for example, "eat a healthier diet" or "get more exercise." Then, have them to list one or two specific ways they could make that change-for example, "eat five fruits and vegetables every day" or "take walks after school, at least three times a week."

3. Explain that they're going to research the lifestyle aspect they'd like to change and then create an action plan in the form of a letter to themselves.

4. Once students have chosen a lifestyle aspect to change, give them this list of questions to address in their letter:

  • What aspect of your health would you like to improve?
  • Why is this change important to your health? What could happen if you don't make this change?
  • What behavior do you need to modify? Explain one or two specific behavior changes you can make.
  • Imagine how changing this habit would improve your life.

5. Have students use print and online resources in their research. These Web sites contain helpful information:

  1. Food and Fitness

    TeensHealth: Food and Fitness

    Discovery Health: Nutrition Center

    USDA: The Food Guide Pyramid

    FDA: Guidance on How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Panel on Food Labels

    Dole: 5 a Day

    Smoking, Drugs and Alcohol

    TeensHealth: Drugs and Alcohol

    Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

    National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency: Facts and Information

    The Addiction Cycle

    Scholastic: Real News about Drugs and Your Body

    Discovery Health: Diseases and Conditions Encyclopedia: Depression

    Teen Health: Depression

    Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: Depression

6. Because students' letters may be personal, you shouldn't share them with the class. Instead, ask students to pull a few lines or a short paragraph that they believe might motivate another student wishing to change the same habit. Tell them that these quotes will be anonymously posted on a "healthy habits" board.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students were highly engaged in class discussions; wrote a detailed, thorough letter answering all of the questions provided.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; wrote a satisfactory letter answering most of the questions provided.
  • One point: Students participated minimally in class discussions; wrote a simplistic letter answering few or none of the questions provided.

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Definition: Physiological dependence on a drug
Context: An addiction to drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes can be very dangerous and difficult to treat.

Definition: A medical condition that leads to intense, prolonged feelings of sadness or despair
Context: A person suffering from depression may lose interest in things they enjoy, feel tired or irritable, or experience a change in appetite.

Definition: The food and drink that a person consumes; a balanced diet is based on the scientific principles that healthful foods and appropriate nutrients must be consumed each day.
Context: Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.

Definition: Substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine, which are unhealthy, often illegal, and can lead to addiction
Context: Although alcohol and nicotine are legal drugs, they can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs like marijuana and heroin.

Food Guide Pyramid
Definition: A visual representation of the number of recommended daily servings in each of the six food groups
Context: According to the Food Guide Pyramid, people should eat two to three servings of dairy foods, like milk or cheese, every day.

Definition: Substances, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, found in foods that people need to stay healthy
Context: Eat a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Definition: A poisonous substance derived from tobacco; the substance that causes addiction to cigarettes
Context: When people smoke cigarettes, nicotine enters their bloodstream.

Definition: The dried leaves of the plant Nicotiana tabacum or related species
Context: Tobacco, used in cigarettes and chew, contains the poisonous substance nicotine.

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The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Science as Inquiry: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Life Science: Structure and function in living systems; Regulation and behavior
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal health; Risks and benefits

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Joy Brewster, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

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