Got GMOs?: An EngrTEAMS Curricular Unit

By Jolene Chrzaszcz; Brian Eberhardt; Rob Johnson; Maurina Aranda; Selcen Guzey; Beth Ring; Kerrie Douglas1; Tamara J. Moore1

1. Purdue University

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Got GMOs? is an engineering design-based STEM curricular unit. The unit aims to facilitate the learning of major science and mathematical concepts and skills within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) respectively. The unit includes teacher guides, class activities with solutions, and assessment guidelines. 

Grade Level: 6-8

Approximate Time Needed to Complete Unit: Sixteen 45-minute class periods

Unit Summary: In this unit, students are taught the mathematical and scientific concepts related to genetics through the incorporation of an engineering design challenge. At the outset of the unit, students are introduced
to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the client, the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Department, who needs to determine if a new barrier effectively reduces cross-contamination of non-GMO corn fields from GMO corn fields. Students use what they know about genetics and heredity to develop a strategy to test for cross-contamination once this newly proposed barrier is installed. Designs for the unit are evaluated to assess the extent to which the experimental designs meet the specifications of the client and reliably test for cross-contamination. Finally, students write a final letter, including their designs and design justifications, to pitch their experimental design to the client.

Science Connections Technology & Engineering Connections Mathematics Connections
Cells contain DNA which is where genes are located, genes carry information that determines the inherited traits of an organism, in asexual reproduction, all the genes come from a single parent, in sexual reproduction half of the genes come from each parent, some traits of organisms are inherited through environmental influences Understand ethical and practical uses of technology in scientific and engineering contexts, understand the process of engineering design, use engineering as a context in which to frame scientific learning Make generalizations about a population from a sample, use data to draw inferences about a population, gauge variation in estimates or predictions, understand probability and statistics

List of Lessons:

  • Lesson 1: Introduction to the Engineering Challenge
    • Objectives: (1) Identify the problem from a client; (2) Define genetically modified organisms (GMOs), engineer, engineering, ethics, genetics, and heredity; (3) Explain why GMOs are produced; (4) Describe and debate the pros and cons of GMO organisms.
  • Lesson 2: Introduction to DNA Structure and Function
    • Objectives: (1) Describe the location and function of DNA; (2) Follow laboratory protocols and procedures to complete an experiment; (3) Analyze the results of an experiment to draw conclusions.
  • Lesson 3: Genes and Trait Expressions
    • Objectives: (1) Define gene, trait, genotype, phenotype, and allele; (2) Describe the location of DNA and genes in an organism; (3) Identify or label the structural components of DNA; (4) Explain how genes are related to traits; (5) Differentiate a trait as either inherited or environmentally influenced or both; (6) Explain the structure and function of genes.
  • Lesson 4: Introduction to Heredity
    • Objectives: (1) Explain how genes and traits are inherited; (2) Compare and contrast sexual and asexual reproduction; (3) Identify organisms that reproduce sexually or asexually; (4) Examine and identify reproductive organs of a flower/plant; (5) Explain how fertilization through pollination occurs. 
  • Lesson 5: Applied Heredity
    • Objectives: (1) Create a Punnett square to represent the inheritance of traits; (2) Analyze a Punnett square to calculate probability and make predictions; (3) Calculate the probability of a particular trait being passed down to an offspring; (4) Predict the traits that would be present in an offspring; (5) Explain inheritance of dominant and recessive alleles.
  • Lesson 6: Genetic Modification
    • Objectives: (1) Explain what a GMO is and how it is created; (2) Explain how the properties of DNA can be used to identify GMOs.
  • Lesson 7: Designing a Solution
    • Objectives: (1) Work toward the solution of a problem using engineering; (2) Develop and evaluate a plan acting as an engineer; (3) Describe the tradeoffs of an engineered design; (4) Justify why their solution is appropriate.
  • Lesson 8: Redesigning a Solution
    • Objectives: (1) Use previous knowledge to create an improved design; (2) Work toward the solution of a problem using engineering; (3) Develop and evaluate a plan acting as an engineer; (4) Describe the tradeoffs of an engineered design.
  • Lesson 9: Communicate with the Client
    • Objectives: (1) Communicate their design through the use of evidence-based reasoning; (2) Justify why their design is appropriate.

Unit Standards:

  • NGSS: MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-2, MS-LS1-3, MS-LS3-2, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4.
  • CCSS: 6.SP.B.5a, 6.SP.B.5b, 7.SP.A.1, 7.SP.A.2, 7.SP.A.5. 

Sponsored by

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant NSF DRL-1238140. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Jolene Chrzaszcz, Brian Eberhardt, Rob Johnson, Maurina Aranda, Selcen Guzey, Beth Ring, Kerrie Douglas, Tamara J. Moore (2022), "Got GMOs?: An EngrTEAMS Curricular Unit,"

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Ruben Lopez

Purdue University