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Learning science is a process that is both individual and social. Like researchers, engineers, mathematicians or physicians who work in teams to answer questions and to solve problems, students in science classrooms often need to interact with their peers to develop deeper knowledge of scientific concepts and ideas. The GroupWork activities were developed to foster an environment in which groups of students work cooperatively to:

  • plan experiments,
  • collect and review data,
  • ask questions and offer solutions,
  • use data to explain and justify their arguments,
  • discuss ideas and negotiate conflicting interpretations,
  • summarize and present findings,
  • and explore the societal implications of the scientific enterprise.

The GroupWork environment is one in which students are “doing science” as a team. Suggestions about when to introduce these group activities are included in the Teacher Activity Notes.

Format and Organization of GroupWork Activities

Each GroupWork activity includes teacher activity notes, an activity guide, an individual report, resource materials, and at times, data sheets. The activity guide contains instructions for the group's task and questions to be discussed as students plan for and work on a group product. Resource materials are varied. They might include textual information, visual resources such as photos, drawings, graphs or diagrams, video, or audiotapes. Individual reports by students are an integral part of each activity to be completed in class or as part of a homework assignment. Planning information for the teacher is found on the Teacher Activity Notes page.

Sets of GroupWork activities are organized around a central concept or a basic scientific question-a “big idea.” Ideally, as students rotate to complete these activities, they encounter this central idea, question, or concept in different scientific contexts or in different social settings. These rotations provide students with multiple opportunities to grapple with the material, explore related questions and dilemmas, look at different representations, and think of different applications. Figure 1 shows how students rotate from activity to activity around the “big idea.”

The GroupWork activities were designed to be open-ended to foster the development of higher-order thinking skills. Such open-endedness allows students to decide as a group how to go about completing the task, as well as what the final group product might be. Open-ended group activities increase the need for interaction as students serve as resources for one another, draw upon each other's expertise and knowledge, and take advantage of their different problem-solving strategies. When groups are heterogeneous and include students with many different intellectual abilities, the repertoire of strategies and previous experiences is rich and diverse. As students interact with their peers, they learn how to communicate effectively, justify their arguments when challenged, and examine scientific problems from different perspectives. Such interaction scaffolds students' knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.

These GroupWork activities then are quite different from traditional lab activities that include more step-by-step procedures and are crowded with details. In addition to reading, writing, and computing (the traditional academic abilities), students use many different intellectual abilities to complete their task. They make observations, pose questions, plan investigations; they use and create visual models, access and interpret scientific information from different sources and from different media, and convey scientific findings in diagrams, graphs, charts, or tables. The use of a wide array of resource materials provides students with additional ways to access and use information, as well as with additional opportunities to demonstrate their intellectual competence and be recognized for their contributions. We have included in the Teacher Activity Notes a partial list of some of the multiple abilities students might be observed using in these group activities.

When group activities are open-ended, rich, and intellectually demanding, a single student will not be able to complete the task in a timely fashion by himself or herself. Making students responsible as a group to interpret a challenging task and to design a common product or group presentation increases group interdependence. Teachers know, however, that it is also important to hold each student personally accountable for contributing to the group's success and for mastering the concepts or the big idea of the activity. To do so, students are required to complete individual written reports in which they respond in their own words to key discussion questions and summarize what they have learned in the group activity. These written responses can be useful for teachers in gauging and monitoring student knowledge and progress.

Role of the Teacher Planning ahead and organizing the classroom for GroupWork is important for the successful implementation of group activities. We suggest that you refer to Elizabeth Cohen's book, Designing Group Work: Strategies for Heterogeneous Classrooms, published by Teachers College Press in 1994. (See also Lotan, R.A., J.A. Bianchini, and N. C. Holthuis (1996). “Complex Instruction in the Science Classroom: The Human Biology Curriculum in Action,” in R.J. Stahl, (Ed.) Cooperative Learning in Science. A Handbook for Teachers, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.)

Many teachers have realized that when students work in groups, direct instruction is no longer practical. The teacher can't be everywhere at once, telling students exactly what GroupWork to do and how to do it. Thus, teachers delegate authority to students and students take responsibility for their own behavior and their own learning. Rather than constantly turning to the teacher for help, students talk with each other to find out what they should be doing and to solve the challenging problems assigned to them. Teaching students to work collaboratively and to be responsible to one another as a group is an important prerequisite for successful GroupWork. Students also support the smooth ope ration of groups when they have learned to play different roles in their groups effectively. For example, the facilitator sees to it that everyone in the group knows what has to be done and gets help when necessary. The recorder keeps notes of the group's discussions and checks to see if individual reports have been completed. The materials manager sees to it that the group has all the equipment necessary and that the tables are cleared at the end of the lesson. The reporter presents the findings of the group during wrap-up time. When the activity involves hazardous materials, a safety officer might be needed. Every student must have a role to play, and roles rotate so students learn how to perform each role competently.

Delegating authority doesn't mean that the teach er withdraws from the class or completely stays out of the action. Instead of being the focal point of the classroom, the teacher carefully observes the students as they work in the groups, stimulates and extends their thinking, and provides specific feedback.

Equalizing Participation among Members of the Group Making sure that all members of the group have access to the materials and that one group member doesn't take over or dominate the group while another withdraws are among the principal challenges of GroupWork. Teachers can increase participation of students by explaining how the different intellectual abilities are relevant to the successful completion of the task. The teacher states that while no one group member has all the abilities, everyone in the group has some of the intellectual abilities necessary to complete the task successfully. Furthermore, after careful observation of the students' work in groups, the teacher can publicly acknowledge those students who have made relevant contributions and explain specifically how these contributions made the group move forward and become more successful. It is important that the teacher be able to notice the intellectual contributions of students who have low academic or peer status, and who are frequently left out of group interactions. These strategies are particularly relevant in untracked classrooms, where students have a wide range of previous academic achievement (mainly in reading) or where significant proportions of students are English-language learners. Teachers, classmates, and the low-status students themselves need to understand that when many different intellectual abilities are necessary to complete a task successfully, everybody's contribution becomes critical to the success of the group. As more previously low-achieving students feel and are expected to be competent, their participation in the group increases, and subsequently their learning achievements increase as well.

Rachel A. Lotan, Ph.D.

School of Education, Stanford University

Figure 1: Activity Rotation in GroupWork.

Activity Duration Materials Activity Summary
1. Orientation Activity: Issues in Genetic Engineering 40 minutes Newspaper and/or magazine articles on topics in genetic engineering. Students bring in current articles on genetic engineering. In groups, they discuss their articles and present a convincing argument for using genetic engineering to the class.
2.What Do Genes Do? 40 minutes Supplies such as gum drops, jelly beans, gummy bears, egg cartons, or cotton balls to create nucleotides and amino acids ; cardboard; poster paper; markers Students compare the structure and function of genes to the Morse code. They create a poster to explain how genes work.
3. Seeds of Change 45 minutes Will vary Have on hand a selection props, costumes, and art supplies. Students study the genetic engineering of apples and apply the information to teach the class how genes are implanted in plants.
4. Human Designer 45 minutes Videotape, VCR, and TV; pasta noodles; poster board or butcher paper,paints or pens, and glue A videotape provides students with Genes information ab out splicing genes into animal cells. Students create a model of the process.
5. Plasmids and Protein Production 40 minutes 2 plastic test tubes with caps; labels; masking tape; marker; scissors; red yarn,pink yarn, and yellow yarn Students use yarn and scissors to model a genetic engineering process, inserting a human gene into a plasmid. They are asked to consider the possible costs and benefits of this procedure.
6. Are Genetically Engineered Crops a Good Idea? 45 minutes None Students debate the costs and benefits of genetically engineered foods. They are asked to ret1ect on their own decision-making processes.
7. Culminating Activity: You're the Genetic Engineer 50 minutes Will vary Students are given a genetic engineering assignment. Using information from previous activities, they decide how to accomplish their task, and debate the costs and benefits of their projects.

Groupwork 1: Teacher Activity Notes

Orientation-Issues in Genetic Engineering

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

PLAN

Summary Students bring in current articles on genetic engineering. In groups, they discuss their articles and present a convincing argument for using genetic engineering to the class.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • define genetic engineering.
  • describe ethical and moral issues related to genetic engineering.
  • explain strategies for presenting the use of genetic engineering to the general public.

Multiple Abilities

  • Analyzing an issue, logically identifying the possible problems, making connections between ideas and concepts (reasoning ability)
  • Interpreting information provided in an article (conventional academic ability)
  • Explaining clearly and fully, using words precisely (communication skills)

Student Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Individual Report
  • Newspaper or magazine articles on the topic of genetic engineering

Estimated Time 40 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

IMPLEMENT

  1. Ask students to read the section in the text on genetic engineering before beginning these activities.
  2. Before or after the group presentations, discuss with students the topic of genetic engineering.You may wish to first ask students what engineers do. They design, build, manipulate, and create such things as bridges, buildings, roads, and machines. Likewise, genetic engineers design, build, manipulate, and create genetic material in plants, animals, and bacteria. In the discussion, broach the idea that genetic engineering has advantages and disadvantages as well as involves ethical and moral questions. For example, if we can alter our genetic code, who decides what gene types are preferable? Are blue eyes better than brown? Is brown skin better than white? Is assertiveness a good trait or a bad one?

Extension Questions

  • What article did you choose? Why?
  • What do the topics covered in each article have in common?
  • How does the media treat the topic of genetic engineering? Can you tell if the author(s) is for or against the particular type of genetic engineering described in the article?

ASSESS

Use the group presentation, individual report, and group discussion to assess if students can

  • identify the kinds of scientific projects and experiments considered to be within the realm of genetic engineering.
  • describe the possible ethical and moral issues that can arise from these technologies.
  • explain the various ways the media presents these issues.

Groupwork 1 : Activity Guide (Student Reproducible)

Orientation-Issues in Genetic Engineering

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Introduction

Dee Ann A.Splicem is the president of the company Genes-R-Us. She has recently announced that she wishes to increase profits by starting some projects on the cutting edge of genetic engineering but is concerned with public opinion about the moral and ethical issues involved. The company has hired your group as consultants.

Materials

  • Individual Report
  • Newspaper or magazine articles on the topic of genetic engineering

Procedure

1. Dr. Splicem has requested a report on the current trends and projects in genetic engineering. To get an idea of the range of topics and issues in this area, present your article to the rest of the group. Summarize it and give your opinion of the risks and benefits involved in this research.

2. After reviewing each group member's article, select the article (pick only one) that your group agrees should be reviewed by Genes-R-Us.

  • Discuss the moral and ethical issues that may arise as a result of this research.
  • Discuss and decide which research area described in the article “Genes -R-Us” should be pursued. Everyone should agree with the decision.

3. Create a presentation for Dr. Splicem that includes:

  • a summary of the article.
  • any moral or ethical issues that may arise as a result of this research.
  • reasons why Dr.Splicem's company should do research in the area you've described.
  • strategies for convincing the general public to support the research at “Genes-R-Us.”

Groupwork 1: Individual Report (Student Reproducible)

Orientation-Issues in Genetic Engineering

Big Idea: TheCosts and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

1. Based on what you read in the articles, what is genetic engineering?

2. Why do you think Genes-R-Us should or should not begin work on the genetic engineering project described in your article?

3. what moral or ethical issues are involved in the research you described?

Groupwork 2: Teacher Activity Notes - What Do Genes Do?

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

PLAN

Summary Students compare how information is stored in genes with how it is stored in the Morse code. They create a poster to explain how genes work.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • identify the structure and function of genes.
  • explain how changes in the nucleotide sequence of a gene affects the structure and function of the protein it codes for.

Multiple Abilities

  • Making connections between ideas/concepts (reasoning ability)
  • Conceiving of an idea for an illustration, creating a visually attractive poster which conveys information through its picture(s) (artistic/creative ability)
  • Explaining clearly and fully, using words precisely (communication skills)

Student Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Resource
  • Individual Report
  • Poster paper; colored pens or crayons; other art supplies

Estimated Time 40 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

IMPLEMENT

  1. Students need to be familiar with reading and using Morse code before beginning this activity.
  2. We suggest assigning each group a different Morse code message, a or b in Table 2 of the Resource. The messages in the Morse codes in Table 2 of the Resource read:
    1. Storm ahead. Set course due north.
    2. Storm overhead. Set course due south.
  3. This activity is not intended to teach students all about the specifics of how genes code for proteins; students should have gained such knowledge already from the text, labs, or other activities. Rather, they should gain more in depth knowledge that a) genes code for proteins, and b) by changing the code slightly (e.g., a mutation), a different protein results.

Background Information

The Morse code is a process for sending and receiving messages. Short dot and long dash signals are used to represent letters, numerals, and punctuation marks. The code was developed around 1840 by Samuel F. B. Morse and his assistant, Alfred Vail, for communication by electric telegraph. Today, it is used for radio telegraphy for ships at sea, for amateur radio telegraphy, for mobile radio operations, and for visual signaling by blinker light. However, Morse code is being supplanted at sea by long range voice communications via satellite.

Extension Questions

  • What are the benefits of using an analogy to Morse code to explain how information is stored in genes? The limitations?
  • What other examples from everyday life could be used to model how genes work?

ASSESS

Use the group presentation, individual report, and group discussion to assess if students can

  • explain the structure and function of genes.
  • explain how a slight change in the nucleotide sequence of a gene affects the structure and function of the protein it codes for.
  • compare and contrast how information is stored in genes with how it is stored in the Morse code.

Groupwork 2: Activity Guide - What Do Genes Do? (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Introduction

Why do genetic engineers alter the genes in certain microorganisms, animals, and plants? In order to answer this question, we first need to learn about the structure, function, and products of genes. The purpose of this activity, then, is to take a look at what genes are and how they work.

Materials

Poster paper, colored pens or crayons, other art supplies

Procedure

1. Complete the Table 1 on the Resource in order to answer the following questions about the Morse code and genes:

  • How is information stored in a string of Morse code? How is it stored in a gene?
  • What is the function of the Morse code? What is the function of a gene?
  • What happens when a string of the Morse code is changed? When a gene is changed? How do you know?

2. Translate the sample Morse code messages on the Resource, then answer the following questions.

  • How could a change in one DNA nucleotide affect a protein?
  • How does this compare to your Morse code sentence?
  • What are the benefits of using Morse code to explain how information is stored in genes? What are the limitations?

3. Create a presentation using a Morse code message you've written to explain to your class what happens to a protein when there is a mutation (change) in the DNA code for the gene.

Groupwork 2: Resource - What Do Genes Do? (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Table 1
Genetic Code Morse Code
Information is first stored as:

\bullet - - \bullet \ \bullet \ \bullet \ - - \bullet \ \bullet \ \ \bullet - \bullet \bullet \ \bullet - \bullet \bullet
The information is then translated into:

“WE WILL ARRIVE....”
The result of this process:

a. To better understand how Morse code (and genes) work, translate the following string of code. Use Table 2 to help in the translation.

&\bullet \bullet  \bullet  - \ - - - \bullet - \bullet  - - \bullet - \bullet \bullet \bullet \bullet \ \ \bullet  \ \ \bullet - \ - \bullet \bullet \ \bullet - \bullet - \bullet - \\&\bullet \bullet \bullet  \ \ \bullet - - \bullet - \bullet - - - \bullet \bullet - \bullet -\bullet  \ \bullet \bullet \bullet  \ \ \bullet  - \bullet \bullet \ \bullet \bullet - \bullet \\&- \bullet - - - \bullet - \bullet - \bullet \bullet \bullet \bullet - \bullet - \bullet -

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

_________________________________________

b. What hap pens when clots and clashes in the string of Morse code (gene) are changed? Translate the revised string of code.

&\bullet \bullet \bullet \ - \ - - - \bullet - \bullet  - - \ - - - \bullet \bullet \bullet - \ \bullet \ \bullet - \bullet  \ \bullet \bullet \bullet \bullet  \ \bullet \ \bullet - \ -\bullet \bullet \\&\bullet - \bullet - \bullet - \ \bullet \bullet \bullet \\&\bullet \ - - \bullet - \bullet  - - - \bullet \bullet - \bullet - \bullet \ \bullet \bullet \bullet \ \bullet \\&- \bullet  \bullet \ \bullet \bullet - \bullet \ \bullet \bullet \bullet  - - - \bullet \bullet - - \bullet \bullet \bullet \bullet \ \bullet - \bullet - \bullet -

International Morse Code

A \bullet -

B - \bullet \bullet \bullet

C - \bullet - \bullet

D - \bullet \bullet

E \bullet

F \bullet \bullet - \bullet

G - - \bullet

H \bullet \bullet \bullet \bullet

I \bullet \bullet

J \bullet - - -

K - \bullet -

L \bullet - \bullet \bullet

M - -

N - \bullet

O - - -

P \bullet - - \bullet

Q - - \bullet -

R \bullet - \bullet

S \bullet \bullet \bullet

T -

U \bullet \bullet -

V \bullet \bullet \bullet -

W \bullet - -

X -\bullet \bullet -

Y - \bullet - -

Z - - \bullet \bullet

Period \bullet -\bullet -\bullet -

Groupwork 2: Individual Report - What Do Genes Do? (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

1. What was the Morse code message in Table 2, a? The revised message in Table 2, b? How would these different messages change what sailors did on a ship?

2. How is the information stored in a gene similar to and different from the information stored in a Morse code?

3. What happens when the gene code changes slightly? How does a change, called a mutation, affect the protein product?

Groupwork 3: Teacher Activity Notes - Seeds of Change

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

PLAN

Summary Students study the genetic engineering of apples. They then apply the information to create a simulation teaching the class how genes are implanted in plants.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • explain why genetic engineers might want to alter the genes of plants.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of genetically altering plants.

Multiple Abilities

  • Conceiving of an idea for a simulation, generating alternatives, using props, directing the simulation (artistic/creative ability)
  • Analyzing an issue, identifying problems and benefits, making connections between ideas and concepts (reasoning ability)
  • Interpreting information provided in pictures (visual/spatial ability)

Student Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Individual Report
  • Resource
  • Art supplies such as butcher paper, colored pens, crayons; props and costumes

Estimated Time 45 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

IMPLEMENT

Students may need assistance in brainstorming traits that could be improved in plants. Some possible traits are

  • genetic resistance to fungus.
  • genetic resistance to insect pests.
  • drought resistance.
  • frost resistance.
  • more seeds per stock.
  • more accessible fruits to harvesting machines.
  • more durability during harvesting and transport.

Extend This Activity

  • Take a field trip to a laboratory or company where they are creating genetically engineered plants.

Extension Questions

  • What difficulties may arise when “western scientists” attempt to genetically alter the staple crops of a third world country?
  • Why do people fear that the continued genetic engineering of plants will reduce the genetic

diversity of species?

ASSESS

Use the group presentation, individual report, and group discussion to assess whether students can

  • identify and explain why genetic engineers might want to alter the genes of a plant.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of genetically altering plants.

Groupwork 3: Activity Guide - Seeds of Change (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Introduction

Genetic engineers usually work with the genes of one of the following three organisms: bacteria, animals, and plants. Your group is the Research and Development team for Super Crops seed company. Your company already has produced a cotton plant that produces larger tufts of cotton per stalk than the original plant did. You need to genetically engineer a new crop plant variety that farmers will buy and plant over large areas of land.

Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Individual Report
  • Resource
  • Art supplies such as butcher paper, colored pens, crayons

Procedure

1. In your group, decide which major crop plant to focus on: corn, wheat, or rice. Brainstorm and list all the possible problems you imagine a farmer could have in trying to grow and harvest that plant.

2. Examine the Resource showing examples of various plants both before and after they have been genetically engineered. Using your list of problems from Procedure 1, construct a table that presents what traits a genetically engineered plant would have that could solve each of these problems. Remember that genetic engineering combines one or more of the existing traits in various plants.

3. Using your table of traits, design a “super crop plant” that you could engineer using existing traits. Create an advertisement poster for your new and improved crop plant. Make sure you include:

  • a diagram of the plant labeling all the new traits.
  • an explanation of why these traits will help farmers grow more product.
  • an explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of genetically altering this plant.

Groupwork 3: Individual Report - Seeds of Change (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

1. What traits might people want to introduce into plants ? Why?

2. What problems may arise when scientists try to splice new genes into the genetic material of plants? Provide at least three.

3. Do you think genetically engineered plants are a good idea? Why or why not?

Groupwork 3: Resource - Seeds of Change (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits 01 Genetic Engineering

Groupwork 4: Teacher Activity Notes - Human Designer Genes

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

PLAN

Summary A videotape provides students with information about splicing genes into animals (specifically humans). Students create a model of the process using art supplies.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • explain why genetic engineers might want to alter the genes of humans.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of genetically altering human genes.

Multiple Abilities

  • Drawing an idea, creating a model, interpreting information provided in a video, creating a 3-dimensional object from 2-dimensional pictures (spatial/visual ability)
  • Conceiving of an idea for a diagram, generating alternatives (artistic/creative ability)
  • Putting yourself in someone else's shoes, learning how someone feels even though his or her situation is different from your own (interpersonal skills)

Student Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Individual Report
  • Videotape, VCR, and TV
  • Dried pasta noodles; poster board or butcher paper; paints or pens; and glue

Estimated Time 45 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

IMPLEMENT

Locate a videotape that describes how genetic engineering is being used to find a cure for hemophilia. (You may decide to use a video that describes a different but related subject.) The video can be very brief: 3-5 minutes should be sufficient.

Background Information

Research is being conducted today to find improved treatments for patients suffering from hemophilia. The video describes one such treatment that has only been tested on mice. The experimentation involves using retroviruses. The retroviruses have their harmful genes removed and replaced with the corrective gene for tone type of hemophilia. The modified retroviruses with transformed DNA (containing the corrective gene) infect cells that were being cultured. The infected cells are grown into a skin graft. This skin graft in mice produces and secretes the blood protein (Factor 8) that some hemophiliacs lack. The hope is that the skin graft will work in hemophilic patients just like in mice. If so, it will provide hemophilic patients with life-long treatment.

Extension Questions

  • What characteristics of your audience should you consider as you plan your lesson?
  • What if a piece of DNA from an extinct animal, like a dinosaur or plant could be spliced into a living organism? What are the possible outcomes? What are the costs and benefits to doing this?

ASSESS

Use the group presentation, individual report, and group discussion to assess if students can

  • describe the process geneticists use to alter the genes of people.
  • explain why genetic engineers might want to alter the genes of a people.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of genetically altering human genes.

Groupwork 4: Activity Guide - Human Designer Genes (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Introduction

Genetic engineers usually work with the genes of one of the following three organisms-bacteria, animals (such as humans), and plants. In this activity you explore how and why the genes of animals are changed.

Materials

  • Individual Report
  • Videotape, VCR, and TV
  • Dried pasta noodles; poster board or butcher paper; paints or pens; and glue

Procedure

1. As a group, watch the videotape provided. Discuss the main points of the video. Then, outline or draw the steps needed to change the genetic material of an animal cell.

2. Your task is to teach the class how and why the genes of humans are changed. Using the materials provided, create a display that shows the steps that occur when a gene is spliced into human DNA. Your presentation should answer the following questions:

  • Why would we want to genetically engineer human cells?
  • What diseases or disorders can be cured using this technology?
  • What problems may arise from this technology?

Groupwork 4: Individual Report - Human Designer Genes (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

1. Explain with words and/or a drawing how the genes of a human can be changed.

2. What are the benefits of using genetic engineering to alter the genes of a human? What problems may arise from this technology?

3. If a friend could be cured of her or his genetic disease (cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, or hemophilia) through gene therapy, would you urge her or him to undergo the treatment? Explain.

Groupwork 5: Teacher Activity Notes - Plasmids and Protein Production

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

PLAN

Summary Students use yarn and scissors to model a genetic engineering process, inserting a human gene into a plasmid. They are asked to consider the possible costs and benefits of this procedure.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • explain why genetic engineers might want to alter the genes of bacteria.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of genetically altering bacteria genes.

Multiple Abilities

  • Making connections between ideas/concepts (reasoning ability)
  • Building a three-dimensional model from a two-dimensional diagram (spatial-visual ability)

Student Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Resources 1 and 2
  • Individual Report
  • 2 plastic test tubes with caps; labels; masking tape; marker; scissors; red yarn, pink yarn, and yellow yarn

Estimated Time 40 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

IMPLEMENT

1. For each group, create the following.

  • Make two circles of red yarn (bacterial chromosomes) by tying the ends together.
  • Make one small circle of pink yarn (plasmid).
  • Label a plastic test tube Bacterium # 1. Inside this test tube, place a large circle of red yarn (bacterial chromosome) and a small circle of pink yarn (plasmid). Students should extract from Bacterium #1 the plasmid to be used in the recombinant process.
  • Label a second test tube Bacterium #2. Inside this test tube, place a large circle of red yarn (bacterial chromosome). Students should insert the recombinant plasmid into this bacterium.
  • Cut a piece of yellow yarn (piece of human DNA). Label a section of the yarn Gene for Human Insulin. On either side of this label make a black dot (sites where restriction enzyme will cut DNA).

2. In trying to make their recombinant plasmids, students should approximately follow these steps:

  • Extract plasmid from Bacterium #1.
  • Cut plasmid at one site with enzyme I, or restriction enzyme (scissors). Cut piece of human DNA at both ends of human gene for insulin (at black dots).
  • Insert human gene into plasmid. Use DNA ligase or enzyme II (tape) to keep human gene in place.
  • Insert recombinant plasmid into Bacterium #2.

3. You may need to introduce students to some of the genetic engineering vocabulary before this activity (e.g., plasmid, bacterial chromosome, restriction enzymes).

Background Information

  • In bacteria, the genes found on chromosomes differ from animal chromosomes in that they lack the surrounding proteins (thus, bacterial chromosomes are sometimes referred to as “naked” DNA).
  • In addition to the chromosomal material, a bacterial cell may contain one or more plasmids. A plasmid is a circular, extrachromosomal DNA molecule that is capable of replicating autonomously within bacterial cells. Plasmids are commonly used in genetic engineering because they can be manipulated (new genetic material can be added, such as genes making the bacterial resistant to antibiotics) and because the bacterial cell can make many copies.
  • A restriction enzyme is an enzyme that will cut a plasmid in a very specific spot so that new DNA can be inserted.

Extension Questions

  • How are a plasmid and chromosome different? Do humans have plasmids?
  • Why must the human gene be inserted into the plasmid? Why can't the human gene be inserted directly into the bacterium?

ASSESS

Use the group presentation, individual report, and group discussion to assess if students can

  • describe the process geneticists use to insert a human gene into bacterial plasmid DNA.
  • explain the purpose of inserting a human gene into bacteria.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of inserting human genes into bacteria.

Groupwork 5: Activity Guide - Plasmids and Protein Production (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Introduction

Genetic engineers sometimes use bacteria to produce large amounts of a particular protein. In the case of human insulin, for example, engineers insert the gene for insulin into the DNA of bacterial cell. The bacterial cell then produces large amounts of insulin that can be used safely and cheaply for people with diabetes. In this activity, you act as genetic engineers. You use yarn, test tubes, scissors, and tape to model how bacteria are genetically engineered to produce insulin.

Materials

  • Resources 1 and 2
  • Individual Report
  • 2 plastic test tubes with caps; labels; masking tape; marker; scissors; red yarn, pink yarn, and yellow yarn

Procedure

1. As a team, discuss the “Model of Genetic Engineering” resource card. It describes those parts needed to create a bacterium that produces the human protein insulin.

2. Create a model of a bacterium with the ability to produce the human protein insulin. Use the Resources and carefully record the steps that your team takes.

3. Discuss the following questions:

  • How is the human gene for insulin inserted into the plasmid of a bacterium?
  • What do genetic engineers do once they have bacteria with the desired gene?
  • Why insert a human gene for insulin into a bacterium? What are the possible benefits and/or risks?
  • Do you think scientists should use bacteria in genetic engineering? Mice? Monkeys? Humans? Where and how should scientists draw the line?

4. Prepare your presentation. Describe the process your team used to create bacteria with the information to produce human insulin. Include the costs and benefits of this genetic technology.

Groupwork 5: Resource 1 - Plasmids and Protein Production (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Model of Genetic Engineering

Groupwork 5: Resource 2 - Plasmids and Protein Production (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

Groupwork 5: Individual Report - Plasmids and Protein Production (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

1. How is a human gene inserted into a bacterium? Explain using words and a diagram.

2. Why insert a human gene into a bacterium? What are the benefits? The costs?

3. Do you think scientists should use bacteria in genetic engineering? Mice? Monkeys? Humans? Where should scientists draw the line? Explain.

Groupwork 6: Teacher Activity Notes - Are Genetically Engineered Crops a Good Idea?

Big Idea: The Costs and Benefits of Genetic Engineering

PLAN

Summary Students debate the costs and benefits of genetically engineered foods. They are asked to reflect on their own decision-making process.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • determine and present reasons for and against the genetic engineering of foods.
  • explain their own opinion about genetic engineering.

Multiple Abilities

  • Reading and interpreting source material (traditional academic ability)
  • Explaining clearly and fully, being verbally persuasive (communication skills)

Student Materials

  • Activity Guide
  • Resource-Teams 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Individual Report

Estimated Time 45 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

Implement

  1. If students have little debate experience, discuss how to conduct a debate before introducing this activity. Emphasize the importance of incorporating scientific information, supporting statements with evidence, and listening carefully to the opposing position.
  2. Depending on student's reading abilities, you may want to assign the Resources as homework the day before the activity.
  3. After the activity, encourage students to further reflect on their decision-making process. Point out that scientific information alone cannot resolve complex issues related to biotechnology-that people's values and goals also play a part.
  4. Feel free to create new Resources on other biotechnology issues.
  5. This activity requires students to work in groups of 4 so that they can divide into 2 equal teams.

Background Information

  • The quotes and examples used in the four debate articles are real. They were pulled from the following articles :

Alex Barnum, “Brave New Foods,” San Francisco Chronicle (1992): BI-B6.

Alex Barnum, “What Bioengineers Have in Store for Food Crops, ” San Francisco Chronicle (1992): B6.

Tom Dworetzky, “Hi-tech Farming: How're You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm once They've Had E. Coli?” Omni (1993): 15 (4), 8.

Sibella Kraus, “Brave New Vegetables,” San Francisco Chronicle (1992).

Linda Marsa, “Food Fight: Burger Deluxe, Hold the Biotech,” Omni (1993): 15 (8), 18.

Susan Katz Miller, “Activists Join Forces Against Animal Patents,” New Scientists (1993): 137 (1860),8.

Gail Vines, “Guess What's Coming to Dinner?” New Scientist (1992): 136 (1847), 13-14.

Extension Questions

  • Does science and science alone hold the answer to the question: Should genetically engineered foods be sold? Explain.
  • What have you learned from this activity about the interaction of science, technology, and society?
  • Would studying basic genetics help a person to learn more about this biotechnology issue? Explain.

ASSESS

Use the group presentation, individual report, and group discussion to assess if students can:

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