Is It the End of Humanity - The Science Explanation

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Objective

SWBAT explain the science needed to accelerate evolution to create their redesign of humanity.

Big Idea

GMOs, cloning, artificial selection and natural selection: students explain the connection between these concepts and their plan for humanity.

Warm-up

5 minutes

This is the final part of the unit project and requires students to explain the science that will be applied to quicken and direct human evolution.  Students have already completed lessons in which they learned about cloning and GMOs.  I begin this lesson by having students respond to the prompts:

  • What is a genetically modified organism?  How does this concept relate to your project?
  • What are the 2 types of cloning and what is the purpose of each?  Which one relates better to your project?

Students discuss with their lab groups and record their answers in their journal.

Activity

40 minutes

I attempt to incorporate as much writing as I can so students have as much practice as possible prior to moving on to high school. This project is too repetitive to make good presentations (many students identified similar adaptations to the ecosystems) so it makes more sense to include a written explanation.

  • Explain your adaptations, how they help humans survive, and reasons for those choices (this builds on info in infographic).  This is where you are adding the detail you need to meet the EXCEPTIONAL criteria from the End of Humanity Rubric.
  • Explain how humans can use genetic technology to quicken the evolutionary process to ensure humanity's survival.  
    • Discuss the initial technology needed to change the desired traits and the technology that can be used to sustain those traits within the species until natural selection takes over.  This is the order your discussion should take:
      • GMO
      • Cloning
      • Artificial selection
      • Natural selection
    • Be sure you include the detail necessary to show your understanding of what these terms mean (what is it, how is it done, how does it apply to your project)

Note: When it comes to the student explanation of GMO, I am only looking for a basic understanding of the concept, not for the identification of specific genes (honestly, students did not create humans that were at all practical but that was not the point). Students should explain that a genetically modified organism is one whose DNA has been "rewritten", either by removing or adding in genes. They should identify the traits that have been added or removed from their human.

The rest of the paragraph should identify that the use of reproductive cloning will be used to make many copies of their prototype human, artificial selection of the best organisms will continue to add desired traits into the population until natural selection takes over to keep the most beneficial traits within the population.

Wrap-up

5 minutes

To conclude this lesson I ask students to express their thoughts on the following question:

Do you think it is ever ok to cross ethical lines for the greater good? (Is it ok to do something that would be considered wrong by society if you think ultimately it saves society?)  Explain why or why not.

I particularly like this question because so much of genetic technology is surrounded by ethical dilemmas. Students recognize the potential of the science but something makes them uncomfortable about it - this shines a small light on the cause of some of that unease.