*If you are already familiar with how CRISPR works to make GMOs and just want the teaching resources, hop down below the Youtube video*
Some people are terrified of the phrase "Genetically modified organism," yet they are literally everywhere. Roughly 75% of the foods in grocery stores have been genetically modified in some way. While creating a GMO used to be a long time consuming process, the development of CRISPR technology has made the process much faster and cheaper. As CRISPR technology becomes more refined, GMOs are going to become more common, not less, and we need to teach students about them.
How CRISPR Works
I recently was able to attend a seminar talk at Arizona State University by Jennifer Doudna, who helped develop CRISPR technology. If you aren't familiar with how CRISPR works, here's the gist:
Alright, ready for some teaching resources?!
1. The website Unlocking Life's Code has a good overview of CRISPR and links to additional resources. You can check it out HERE.
2. This interactive from PBS shows students how GMOs can be made (this is not via CRISPR). I like that it is simple and easy to use. You can view the interactive HERE. HHMI has an interactive site showing how CRISPR works you can view HERE.
3. This New York Times article has a student reading and questions, along with a ton of helpful links to get you started with GMOs. You can find it here.
4. Want to try some GMO speed dating with your students? In this activity, students are given an organism card (they are either a donor or a recipient) and go on "speed dates" with other organisms and determine if they have any genes that would be beneficial in sharing. You can find the lesson HERE. Note: Having done this activity with students, I would recommend it for honors/AP students.
5. If you haven't seen the University of Buffalo's case studies, you need to check them out. They have a TON of great resources for free (you can pay an annual fee for the answer keys, but usually aren't necessary). They have a bunch of case studies relating to GMOs you can view HERE. I have done the golden rice debate with my students and it always works well.
6. A fun activity you can do is to bring in a bunch of foods from home and have students scan the barcodes with the "Now Find Organic and Non-GMO" app (available for free in the app store). I've found that not every food I scanned is in the app, so be sure to try it at home first.
7. I had my students read this article from Nature and we held a Socratic seminar. The article examines if we should be able to edit our children's genes. It was interesting to hear my student's viewpoints on the topic (the majority were firmly against any sort of gametic gene editing).
8. The University of Washington has a lesson on GM salmon that includes 4 different stakeholders for them to read about. You can check out the lesson HERE.
9. Since I teach a PBL style course, I came up with a Shark Tank project where students had to design a GMO and pitch it to a bunch of sharks (the panel was made of teachers and college professors). This lesson in my TpT store has an outline of the worksheets and activities I used (note: it is not a print and go daily unit, but a guide for the project).
10. If you have time to show a documentary, Food Evolution narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson is a great option that explores GM foods. While every documentary has a little bias, this is much less bias than Food Inc. and a better option. You can view the trailer below:
As I find more resources I will add them to the list. If you have any additional favorites, leave them in the comments!
Protein Synthesis is actually a fun concept for me to teach. For me, there are 2 barriers you need to cross in order for students to learn protein synthesis:
1. Learning about the steps of transcription and translation (the easier part)
2. Understanding how DNA translates into gene expression (the harder part)
Most of my students do really well with step 1. They can learn the A's, T's, C's, G's, and U's and where the processes are taking place. But at the end of those lessons, if you ask your students how they have brown eyes, can they answer? It can be difficult to understand how genotypes code for phenotypes. I've put together a list of resources to help walk you and your students through the process.
TEACHING TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION (The easier part)
1. USE INTERACTIVES.
Check out this interactive website where you can go through the process of transcription and translation up on the board with your students. This is a fun way to wrap up your lesson, or use as a reinforcement activity to follow up.
2. USE PUZZLES
Once you've taught the process, you need to have students practice, practice, practice before the test. It's not an easy topic, and they need to have multiple opportunities to review the vocabulary. Check out this puzzle in my TpT store that I use as a review activity.
3. USE VIDEOS
Seeing the process of protein synthesis in real time helps students see the bigger picture much better instead of focusing on the nitty gritty details. Check out these videos from biointeractive of transcription and translation occurring in real time.
TEACHING GENE EXPRESSION (The harder part)
4. USE EXAMPLES
Providing your students with many examples of how DNA --> RNA --> PROTEIN work is critical in helping them understand the complete process. Give them examples from their own body (the gene for melanin showing up as a pigment in their skin and eyes). CLICK HERE to see an example (with video) of a protein that makes fireflies glow.
5. USE ANALOGIES
Do your students understand why all your cells have the same DNA, but they all look different and do different jobs? I created this activity to help students understand how cells have certain genes turned on and certain genes turned off. In this activity the genome is likened to the blueprint of a house. Each student is given a job (plumber, electrician, roofer, or framing) and has to transcribe and translate only the genes that pertain to their jobs. It really helps students understand that cells do not use most of the genome, only genes that apply to them. CLICK HERE to check it out.
If you are interested in a bundle where you can find a lesson, puzzles, review worksheets, close readings, quizzes and more, check out this protein synthesis bundle! It literally has everything you need to get through this unit.
Have any other fun videos, websites, or tips for teaching protein synthesis? Share them in the comments!
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One comment I frequently hear from biology teachers is "My students keep mixing up mitosis and meiosis." I had this problem for many years (the first 5 years of teaching to be exact). During my cells unit I would teach both mitosis and meiosis. I would begin by teaching them both separately, and then had worksheets and activities that compared the two. But when I would give the unit test, it was clear the students still confused the two. I needed to do something differently.
After teaching middle school for 5 years, I switched to a high school near my house. When we got to the cells unit one of my colleagues suggested only teaching mitosis, and waiting to teach meiosis until we got to the genetics unit. Light bulbs kept going off in my head. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
So I tried it. At the end of my cells unit (after teaching organelles, membranes, and cellular energy) I would teach mitosis. When I would test them just on mitosis they would score well, because they didn't have both processes in their head to get confused. Then, after Christmas break when we got to genetics, I would teach meiosis. It made so much sense because:
By the time I quizzed the students on meiosis they were experts on cell division. If your school gives you some freedom with the order of your curriculum, try teaching it this way! You won't regret it.
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BONUS! If you want a fun way to make sure students understand the differences between mitosis and meiosis, try this FREE bingo game in my TpT store! Bingo is a great way to review scientific vocabulary. In this game you will call out the definitions and students will cover up the words on their bingo cards. You can download this product free in my TpT store HERE. Enjoy!
This is one lab that you don't want to miss! It's easy, the materials are inexpensive (you probably already have them at home), and it ties together multiple concepts. Winner!
In this lab, students will analyze a pedigree of a fictitious family. In the introduction, students read that "Jon and Sue Smith" were in a car accident and need a blood transfusion. The hospital asks family members to donate, but students will need to figure out which family members are able to successfully donate. To complete this lab, students will need to understand blood types, punnett squares, and pedigrees. Its a great end-of-the-unit lab when you are finished with genetics.
One piece of feedback I have gotten from my TpT store is that this lab can take a while to set up. I'm here to give you some tips to save you set up AND clean up time.
This is a great lab! But don't just take my word for it:
"A+ lab, I can't tell you how well this lab is planned out. There are great teacher instructions (for once!) and a great student lab handout/key. Everything that I need to have a successful lab and not take me 30 hours to figure everything out. I would definitely buy labs from Science Rocks." -asuzanneg
"So fun! My students had a blast. Very well organized and easy to follow. Thanks!" -Sarah H.