Fact or Fiction? Investigating Genetically Modified Organisms

12 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will judge whether certain GMOs are actually a reality as opposed to the fringes of science fiction. A brave new world in which we live!

Big Idea

Genetically Modified Organisms are more commonplace than you might think!

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson...

1. Students will properly infer (or judge) whether a given GMO does exist and evaluate (determine the pros and cons) of a given example.

2. Students will begin to consider the broader social, health, political, economic, and ethical factors that bear on the creation and use of genetically modified organisms.

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How can I develop a classroom culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity, and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration?

With the kick-off to a new unit, one following the exploration of the nature of DNA and its role in converting a genotype into a phenotype, students will now be faced with the difficult task of judging whether a given GMO scenario is actually feasible. Moreover, as citizens we all are stakeholders in the landscape of science and technology innovations, for good or ill. It is perhaps this second effect that is most vexing for those who are aware enough to be concerned.

The close interrelationship between science and society has long been documented. According to a 2008 National Science Education Standards publication, "Understanding basic concepts and principles of science and technology should precede active debate about the economics, policies, politics, and ethics of various science- and technology-related challenges... Decisions involve assessment of alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits and consideration of who benefits and who suffers, who pays and gains, and what the risks are and who bears them." Indeed, humans have a major impact on all species. In many states across this great land (including my own) these past several years have seen a robust GMO debate with initiatives proposed and voted upon. Clearly the issue is not dead and one can attest to this by simply searching the Internet for the term "GMO".

It is with this broad aim that I hope to pique student curiosity, interest, and in some cases ire, rooted in a sense of a dark and sinister turn taken by dark and sinister scientists. So the main work ahead is the distill fact from fiction and to attempt to objectively assess the impacts (pros and cons) of the available technology.

Introduction to New Unit:

As the unit commences, I consistently begin with a bit of a "teaser" or "trailer" to the forthcoming topics of study. In doing so, we discuss the Enduring Understandings and Essential Question featured in the map for this unit of study.

I randomly choose students to read each EU (in turn) and pause to unpack its meaning a bit. I embellish with a bit of history (including the dilemma faced by those involved in the Manhattan Project) and how science and technology have always been inextricably connected to the society that is served by them.

Next, I read the EQ: “Just because genetic engineering can be done, should it be done?”
Lastly, I frame the focus of the unit on its two halves: the technical how-to of GMOs and the ethical/moral side (akin to the WWII era creation of the atomic bomb).

Instructional Input/Student Activities

40 minutes

Fact or Fiction survey:

1. Present the concept that single genes can be mixed and matched among living species, sometimes with good effects and sometimes not.

2. Students will infer (based on what they have seen in real life) what seems to be a reasonable and technically feasible GMO (as opposed to purely sci-fi).

3. As a team, students will discuss their thinking and mark Fact or Fiction (or alternatively T or F) on their whiteboards. They should keep a running tally of their answers since the key will be revealed only at the end of the activity.

4. Present the answers for each scenario (with great fanfare and soliciting what students had thought). Some of these will seem rather obvious to students while others are quite surprising!
Have teams total their score.

Here are some responses from various groups:

Group 4 Answers

Group 7 Answers

Group 8 Answers

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

10 minutes

Exit Slip: “Choose one example from the twelve GMOs presented and describe at least one positive and one negative aspect to its creation.”

From an assessment perspective, what I wanted was for students to confront what they seemed to be reasonable applications for GMOs thus far. I also want to lay the groundwork for later lessons wherein I make reference back to some of the odd projects like the "spider goat", especially for the lesson titled Recombinant DNA Picture Essay. Whether a group scored 100% or not was of minor importance at this stage of the game. Rather, did they use reasoning to support their answer?