The Blue People of Kentucky~ Such an Awesome Project-Based Learning Project!

TheBluePeople-1024x747Ok, I admit it….. I have always wanted to try a Project-Based Learning Project (PBL) but I have been a little intimidated by it.  I teach high school general Biology students, not honors, so how can I differentiate a huge project so that EVERY one of my kids benefits from it? Good question…..

So what did I do? I decided to write my own PBL… Crazy right?

First, I knew I had to find some sort of odd genetic disorder that my students would enjoy researching.  Then, I needed to give them a “real-world” scenario in which to operate.  My choice?  The Fugate clan, a group of people who lived isolated in the Appalachian Mountains (Kentucky) who were unique because some of their family members have blue skin!!

My students operated in groups of four as a “Medical Team” (physician, medical transcriptionist, geneticist, and statistician).  They investigated the family in order to gain information which would help them with the diagnosis of their patient, a newborn named Ella.  Within the scope of our project, they researched possible causes for blue skin (both acquired and congenital).

We did Punnett squares to determine possible offspring and used Sketch Notes for our lecture a couple of days.



They also reconstructed Ella’s family tree. img_8401

Then, they constructed a pedigree from this information and assigned genotypes to each individual. An awesome resource for making pedigrees online is  No more trying to get those circles and squares juuuuuuuust right! This site allows you to save your pedigree as a picture. Easy peasy!


At the end, they shared their diagnosis with a presentation at a local “medical meeting” in CER format (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning).

I have to say, it took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r…. to write the whole PBL (an entire weekend to be exact) but I will definitely be doing this for other topics in my Biology class!  My students loved it!  I think they told everyone in the entire school about the people with blue skin 🙂 I had them keep a group folder (“Ella’s Medical File”) so grading was fairly easy.

I am putting a small-scale PBL for Pedigrees using the Blue People of Kentucky up on my TPT.  I’m also working on putting up the large PBL for the entire genetics unit.  Stay tuned!

You can find my small-scale PBL for Pedigrees using the Blue People of Kentucky here:  It includes all you need to explore the Fugate clan and their unusual disorder.  A non-editable PowerPoint file is included to help you not only introduce the case with lots of visuals, but also show Ella’s pedigree and explain the diagnosis of her disorder.

Don’t forget to visit my TPT store:

NEW! Make sure to visit my website at

About Edgy Instruction

Science Teacher (Biology, AP Biology, and Forensic Science), Anatomy Professor, and former Instructional coach.
This entry was posted in biology, Project Based Learning PBL, Sketch Notes, Strategies, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s