Students learn about DNA structure and function and its role as the mechanism of heredity through several lessons that include hands-on activities, video resources, discussions, and more! Examples of topics covered include modeling the DNA molecule, base-pairing, DNA extraction, and applications of biotechnologies such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA fingerprinting. The unit culminates in a design challenge where students design, build, and present a model of an organism according to specific criteria and constraints.
- Lesson 1: Students build and use a DNA model and describe its role in cells
- Lesson 2: Students build and use a DNA fingerprint model to describe genetic variation in offspring
- Lesson 3: Students use an electrophoresis model to construct an Egyptian pedigree diagram
- Lesson 4: Students conduct a DNA extraction and describe the processing of specific organelles during the procedure
- Lesson 5: Students model the PCR process, and calculate and analyze DNA products after multiple PCR cycles
The unit integrates the use of technology in the form of online videos and web pages that students access in order to gain information on the science concepts covered in the unit. For example, in Lesson 1 students access videos to learn more about how DNA contributes to the overall function of cells (MS-LS1-2). Students also explore applications of biotechnology in Lessons 2, & 5 (MS-LS4-5). Lesson 5, which focuses on the PCR technique, incorporates the use of algebraic functions for calculating and analyzing quantities of DNA products for given numbers of PCR cycles (CCSS Math 8.F.B.5). This provides students with information to use for critical thinking and writing knowledgeably about how the technique leads to human influences on inherited traits. Students learn about different types of cells, specific organelles, and their contribution to cell function in Lesson 4 (MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-2). Lessons 2 & 3 lead students to understand that sexual reproduction results in genetic variation in organisms (MS-LS2-3). The unit includes a design challenge to embed engineering principles such as designing within a defined set of criteria and constraints and following a design process.