“Finding Your Roots,” an innovative new curriculum utilizing personalized genealogy and genetics to teach science and health to disadvantaged and minority students, based on Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s PBS documentary series of the same name, has received two major external grants: a $355,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for “Genetics and Genealogy Summer Camps for Middle School-Aged Youth,” and a $304,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a companion program at the college level, “Personalized Genetics and Genealogy Exercises to Enhance Introductory Biology Courses.” Leading the curriculum working group are Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, and Nina Jablonski, the Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University.

“I conceived of this project after the first season of our PBS series aired in 2005, as I realized the impact that tracing one’s genealogy can have on the self-esteem of young people of color,” Gates explained.  “As every amateur genealogist knows, reconstructing one’s ancestry is another way of learning about yourself.  Far too many of our children have their passion for learning crushed in poor learning environments, both at home and at school.  Learning the art and science of ancestry tracing through DNA and archival records can help to regenerate that passion for learning, because it is so personal, and besides, it is fun.”

“Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” the series that inspired the education initiative, will launch its third season on PBS on Jan. 5.