Genetics and Biotechnology in Action!
Grade Level 7-8
Biotechnology and genetic engineering are hot debate topics these days. Are we
improving our lives are digging our own graves? Even actions based on best intentions
can have deadly consequences. Should we take a risk or should we avoid it at all cost?
Would you like to resolve those questions for yourselves? If you do, join us while we
explore our ancient ancestral roots by reading " Seven Daughters of Eve" and enter the
alternative universe created by John Wyndham by reading " The Day of the Triffids "!
Learn various aspects and guises of genetics and biotechnology from the past to the
present and to appreciate the consequences , by analyzing and evaluating each action
in terms of the potential benefits and potential risks, so that you too can face the epic
challenge – save the world from the triffids!
1. The Day of the Triffids (20th Century Rediscoveries) (Paperback) by John Wyndham
(Author) Amazon Price: $11.20
2. The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
(Paperback) by Bryan Sykes (Author) Amazon Price: $11.53
Additional Materials Required:
Composition book preferably (but not necessarily) quadrille ruled (recommended item
Staples Item: 858198, $2.79 or similar).
58 (Reading like an Investigator) When reading a variety of fiction and non-fiction
sources, this student continuously created questions about the text to further inquiry,
annotated key words with further connections/definitions, gathered and prioritized the
accuracy and relevance of information, separated human biases from the facts and
ideas presented, and categorized information into themes.
61 (Investigative Reports) When writing , this student produced concise, focused, error-
free products that enlisted strong verbs, content-specific vernacular, and varied
sentence structure to communicate in an authoritative/logical voice. He/she
incorporated valid, relevant, and correctly cited research that supported a stated
hypothesis/topic; used procedural descriptions and transitions to accurately detail
processes involved; thoroughly presented collected data in clearly prioritized/organized
text using headings, diagrams, pictures, equations, and/or charts when needed;
persuasively discussed research outcomes, articulating both predicted and unexpected
results; and/or demonstrated the impact of his/her findings in a broader context. When
challenged, he/she consistently separated human biases from facts and logically
defended his/her position
59 (Eliminating and Isolating) Through observation and careful sifting and winnowing of
data, this student deconstructed a problem/system in order to isolate individual
problems, solutions, or cost, and eliminate items irrelevant to the problem-solving
62 (Experimenting) Using general scientific processes, this student identified a problem
or formulated a question and then designed an experiment and/or equation that solved
the problem or answered the question.
68 (Ranking Solutions and Revising the Scale) After the student tested/ranked
solutions, he/she revised his/her experiment to factor out additional variables or to factor
in other relevant theories/laws/influences. He/she was also able to expand/modify
additional experiments as needed.
63 (Ethical Investigation ) This student demonstrated resourcefulness and a
commitment to the valid, critical analysis of the facts by meeting deadlines, providing
and accepting constructive criticism in multiple settings, properly citing sources, and
contributing relevant evidence to group discussions whenever possible. His/her work
consistently met the challenge of vigorous analysis due to the detailed approach taken
and his/her willingness to incorporate feedback.
1. Origins of Triffids– (58, 59, 61) – Team project due by the 2nd face to face
An assay presenting a theory of the triffid origins and their detailed appearance based
on the extrapolation and analysis of the information provided and omitted in the book
and by analysis of their genetic data (additional resources provided).
2. Presentation of the ideas – (59, 63) – Team project due at the 2nd face to face
Based on the overall understanding of the triffids gained from writing the Origin of
Triffids, each group will present their general ideas of how to solve the triffid problem
backing them with available facts.
3. Research proposal – (58, 59, 61) – Team project due by the 3rd face to face
Each team will submit a formal scientific proposal. The proposal will reflect work that
needs to be done to obtain more clues leading to the solution of the triffid problem or will
describe a solution itself.
4. Defense of the proposal – (59, 68, 63) – Team project due at the 3rd face to face
Teams will present their proposals and defend it from the criticisms by others. All
criticisms and defenses must be based on scientific knowledge and facts.
5. Letter of recommendation – (68, 61) – Individual project due by the last day of
After careful and objective review of all proposals each individual will write a formal
letter to the government official from the alternative universe which will recommend the
best proposal for implementation. The opinion stated should be backed up by solid
scientific arguments and should take into consideration all points of view.
6. Lab Notebook – (58, 62, 68) – Individual project due at the 3rd face to face.
Written record of all data, ideas, and conclusions gathered throughout the term.
Theme One: Understanding Genetics and
Biotechnology of Today
Week One: Introduction to Biotechnology and Genetics
Summary:This week you will learn to recognize various guises of biotechnology and
learn about the foundations of genetic principles. In parallel, learn to read like an
investigator by collecting all relevant information about triffids. Learn to note implied and
Guiding Question: Traditional biotechnology (such as breeding) is deemed safe by
most people who are firmly against genetic engineering. However, in 1957 this “safe”
biotechnology resulted in the creation of the “killer bees”. Should the traditional
biotechnology be regulated just as genetic engineering is? Why? Be sure to respond to
at least 3 other students.
Experiments in Plant Hybridization by Gregor Mendel (online)
Other assignments dealing with basic principles of genetics
Reading: Read chapters 1 and 2 of The Day of the Triffids
Show What You Know: Discoveries in science change the experience and knowledge
base of those that come after. Look-up the genetics timeline on
For each event give a short description in your own words of what was discovered and
why was it important.
Week Two: The Legacy of our Genes
Guiding Question: Introduce yourself and your great, great, great, great, great, great,
great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great,
great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great,
great, great, great, great grandparent to the group. What do you think you both have in
common? What is completely different? Why? Be sure to respond to at least 3 other
Activities that have to do with ways that genetics is applied to solve problems.
Reading: Read chapters 1-5 in The Seven Daughters of Eve and fill out the chart
Key Concept Synthesis
Directions: Use the following graphic organizer to identify the 10 most important concepts (in
the form of single words or phrases) from the reading. Think about identifying the 10 most
import concepts this way: If you had to explain the reading to someone who had not read the
text, what are the five most important concepts you would want them to understand? Use a
highlighter and marginal notes to identify import concepts as you read, and then complete the
graphic organizer once you have completed the reading.
List Concepts Put the Concept Find Two Websites that Give List 2 Key Ideas Gained from the Websites
Read in Your Own more Information on the
(with page #s) Words Topic
1. EX: “The past DNA carries the Links Evolution - PBS • “If Neanderthals had made a substantial contribution to
is within us all,” similarities that Rediscovering the gene pool of contemporary humans, replacement
(8). have been models like out of Africa would be severely challenged.”
Biology - Unit 9 Human
passed down for Evolution Animations • “Subtle chemical signals, or pheromones, have long been
many and Images known to draw pairs together within the same species,
generations and for a specific reason. In mice, for example,
experiments showed that pheromones acted as
attractants between males and females who were
genetically similar except that they differed in a certain
type of immune system gene.”
Show What You Know: Build a flow chart exploring the problem solving process used
to answer a question solved by genetics. Your map should:
1. Start with a question.
2. Show all known possible answers to that question.
3. Introduce evidence that either negated or furthered each possible answer.
4. End with an excepted answer.
Week Three: Unlocking the Past
Guiding Question: Did she really murder that person? Was he really the father? What
happened to the Neanderthals? Where did the Polyisiean people come from? Was the
body of the Tsar really found? Who is that mummy really? Why do some people age
more than others?
Genetics has answered many controvesial questions about the past. State one
question, describe the different prespectives developed on that topic before genetics
helped to answer the question, and then explain how genetic evidence helped to
provide an answer. Be sure to respond to at least 3 other students.
Reading: Complete reading The Seven Daughters of Eve and fill out the Key Concept
Skill building activities in bioinformatics.
Show What You Know:
1. Apply knowledge and skills learned this week by tracing the relationship of various
organisms presented in the Bioinformatics Assignment.
2. Complete the Specialty Qualification Quiz that will test knowledge and skills acquired
to date (not graded). Your performance on this quiz will define your group and specialty
assignment in all future projects.
Theme Two: Tracing the Origins of Triffids
Week Four: The Building Blocks
Guiding Question: The triffids were supposedly created in the secret military facility.
Can you see how they can be used as a weapon? What do you think is being made at
such facilities around the world today? Where would biological warfare lead? Are there
ways to prevent it?
Reading: Read the next 6 chapters of The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.
Discuss the meeting at the University. Which group would you join? How would you
behave in such situation? Go to the Discussion: The Day of the Triffids and post your
Show What You Know: This week you will start working as an expert team member on
the 1st project: The Origin of Triffids. Each of you will be responsible to contribute work
related to your specialty field of expertise. Collaborate with your team members in
collection and analysis of the information available about the triffids in your group forum.
Scientific literature will be individually provided.
1) Botanists will have to trace various traits of the triffids to existing plants in phenotype–
possible progenitors (ex. Find which plants produce non-volatile oil in their
2) Molecular biologists will have to explain the basis of triffid traits on the molecular level
by discovering similar pathways in other plants. (Ex. How is poison produced and
restricted to the sting?)
3) Geneticists will have to work out how is it possible to have only 5% of fertile seeds.
4) Bioinformatics specialists will work on tracing triffid linage from the DNA data that will
5) Ecologists will need to connect the effect of the environment and climate on the
triffids and research similar cases among other plants.
Week Five: Tracing the Past
Guiding Question: “Unlocking the past”, tracing your linage to the tsar sound exiting
and fairly innocent. But how far and how deep should we dig? Would that butler be as
excited and proud of his relationship to the iceman if it was discovered that he was a
cannibal? Would you want to know if you are related to Hitler? Are there events and
possible relationships in the past better left undiscovered? Give at least three ideas and
be sure to respond to at least 3 other students.
Branching Activities: What goes wrong with DNA
Reading: Read chapters 9-13 of The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Respond to
the thought that situation could have been worse without triffids. Join the discussion
started by Coker of “womanly virtue” vs. “parasitism” and state your views on the matter.
Writing Application: This week you will write “The Origin of Triffids” in which you will
propose scientific explanation of how the triffids were created in collaboration with your
The Origin of Triffids is due on the date of the 2nd face to face meeting.
Week Six: Concocting a Solution
Guiding Question: Hypothetical problem:
Some scientist created a genetically modified mosquito. This mosquito is male and
carries a dominant gene that causes infertility in female progeny. If this male is mated
with the regular female mosquito, all males in the progeny carry this gene and all
females are infertile. He proposes to release this mosquito into the general population.
That will result in the full eradication of the mosquito population in the near future. No
more need to spray insecticides! No more diseases carried by mosquitoes! What other
possible side effects could there be? Should he be allowed to do so? Why? Explain
your reasoning (may require some research on your part).
Reading: Finish reading The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. What is the world
coming to? Are there are any other possible scenarios that John Wyndham had not
Show What You Know: Now that you “know” the past of the triffids, what further
information do you need to collect and what experiments to perform in order to come up
with the way of exterminating them in the future? Is there a solution to the triffid problem
short of extermination?
Propose several ideas of how to eradicate triffids. Work with the representatives from
the alternative universe on deciding which one to pursue based on logistics and ability
to overcome technical limitations. Bill Masen, lab manager, will send questions for the
proposed experiments. Michael Beadly, government official, will request forms, short
reports, memos, etc. Elspeth, historian/journalist, will periodically request additional
information ask opinions, voice public concerns on various issues, etc. And, finally, John
Smith, lab technician, will perform some of the requested experiments and post the
Finalize the idea and send an official memo.
Submit requests for at least 3 short experiments (related to triffids) to the lab
tech, John Smith. Review and analyze the results.
Theme Three: Solving the Triffid Problem
Week Seven: Mixing and Matching
Guiding Question: Is it okay to mix genes from different species? “An example of a
plant-animal-human transgenic combination would be one in which the DNA of mouse
and human tumor fragments is inserted into tobacco DNA. The harvested plants contain
a potential vaccine against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.1 Other transgenic plants have
been used to create edible vaccines. By incorporating a human protein into bananas,
potatoes, and tomatoes, researchers have been able to create prototypes of edible
vaccines against hepatitis B, cholera, and diarrhea.2 The vaccines are proving to be
successful in tests on agricultural animals and humans,”
Reading: Additional scientific literature (will be provided)
Show What You Know: Once idea is proposed, more information needs to be collected
to prove this idea as feasible.
Make a list of all information/protocols/data necessary for a feasibility study. Submit the
request to the library. Read all the literature provided for your request. Based on the
information gathered submit request for at least 3 small experiments along with the
protocol to the lab tech. Receive and analyze the results. (Ex. Send a request for gene
screening, provide protocols for it, receive results as picture of a gel or a DNA sequence
depending on request).
Week Eight: Ethics and Feasibility
Guiding Question: Do you think human cloning will happen despite current laws? If it
did, what might be some of the consequences?
“Several bioethicists have called for a ban on species-altering technology that would be
enforced by an international tribunal.14 Part of the rationale for a ban is the concern that
such technology could be used to create a slave race, that is, a race of subhumans that
would be exploited,” (http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/glenn.html?print). Should
such ban be limited to humans or should we ban creation of the carrot-cabbage plant as
well? What about animals?
Show What You Know: Submit feasibility study. It will become along with the “origin of
triffids” a part of the actual research proposal (introduction and background material).
Research (via library request) various techniques required for the research proposed.
Modify those (if required) to suit your experiments. Submit for logistics analysis to Bill.
Modify/change as required. Write up the Materials and Methods section of your
proposal and submit.
Answer to safety and environmental concerns voiced by Elspeth. They will need to be
addressed in the discussion section of the proposal.
Week Nine: Bringing it All Home
Guiding Question: Would you want to know if there was a genetic defeat in your
Show What You Know:
1. Final proposals are due on the date of the 3rd face to face meeting
2. Each team will give a short (15 min) oral presentation – an overview of their proposal.
3. Following the presentation each team will be required to answer relevant questions
posed by other teams (for 15 min).
4. Final assignment is due on the last day of term. Each person will be required to
reevaluate the merits of each proposal presented at the face to face and write a Letter
of Recommendation (1/2-1 page long).
First face to face: Introduction
Explicit, implicit, and omitted information
Experts – analyzing the same information from different points of view
Discover your field of expertise activity
Need to bring:
2. Your Lab notebook
Second face to face: The Origin of Species
Discussion of The Origin of Species
Discussion of ideas for the proposal
Need to bring:
2. Your Lab notebook
3. Any visual aids (if any)
Third face to face: Presentation of the Research Proposals
Presentations (15 min per team)
Defense (15 min question and answer period per team)
Need to bring:
2. Your Lab notebook
3. Visual aids (required)