Author:
Carrie Robledo
Subject:
Science, Biology
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Level:
Middle School, High School
Tags:
  • 7th Grade
  • Biology
  • Genetics
  • NCEngineers
  • Science
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Language:
    English

    Education Standards

    STEM Genetic Coding Challenge

    STEM Genetic Coding Challenge

    Overview

    Students will work in groups (2-4 students per group) to translate the genetic code they receive in the form of a color coded message through various formats ending in their group finding the correct “puzzle piece.” If each group chooses the correct piece when they add together their pieces it will create the protein, Insulin.

    Instructor Directions

     

     

    STEM Genetic Coding Challenge

    Lesson submitted by Jacob Duvall

    New Hanover County Schools

     

     

    Driving Question / ScenarioHow does the DNA in the nucleus of cells translate their information into making a fully functioning protein.
    Project SummaryStudents will work in groups (2-4 students per group) to translate the genetic code they receive in the form of a color coded message through various formats ending in their group finding the correct “puzzle piece.” If each group chooses the correct piece when they add together their pieces it will create the protein, Insulin.
    Estimated Time1 class period (but you could expand it and do multiple challenges)
    Materials / ResourcesPer group:
    • 1 string 6-7 inches
    • A handful of multi-colored plastic beads (with at least 10 red, 10 blue, 10 yellow, and 10 green)
    • 2 Manila folders
    • DNA handout
    • Ribosome handout
    • Amino Acid handout
    • Final Puzzle Piece Handout
    Grade6-12
    Subject(s)Biology, Genetics
    Educational Standards7.L.1, 7.L.2, Bio 1.1
    Classifying Objective7.L.1.4                        Summarize the structure and function of organelles in eukaryotic cells (including the nucleus, plasma membrane, cell wall, mitochondria, vacuoles, chloroplasts, and ribosomes) and ways that these organelles interact with each other to perform the function of the cell.7.L.2.3Explain the impact of the environment and lifestyle choices on biological inheritance (to include common genetic diseases) and survival.BIO 1.1.1 Summarize the structure and function of organelles in eukaryotic cells (including the nucleus, plasma membrane, cell wall, mitochondria, vacuoles, chloroplasts, and ribosomes) and ways that these organelles interact with each other to perform the function of the cell.BIO 1.1.3 Explain how instructions in DNA lead to cell differentiation and result in cells specialized to perform specific functions in multicellular organisms.
    Project Outline
    AskHow does our  DNA and Ribosomes work together to make all the ‘things’ that make us up?
    ImagineImagine you are DNA in the nucleus of a cell, or a ribosome working hard to make proteines. They cannot talk so how does the Nucleus get the ribosome to make the right things?
    • At this stage students groups should be split into a Nucleus Group and a Ribosome Group
    • Students in the Nucleus Group will be given a string and a random assortment of colored beads along with a color code consisting of 9 different colored blocks. Students must imagine a solution using only these few materials to get their code to the Ribosome Group.
    • The Ribosome group will imagine how they will take the information from the Nucleus and somehow use it to choose the correct “puzzle piece” using their keys.
    Plan
    • The planning phase involves both groups anticipating the challenges each other will face and creating an idea for how to solve it. This is when many groups start to plan for the use of the string and beads to somehow transmit the code to the other group. During this phase allow students to look at their codes, materials, keys, etc so that they can begin coming up with possible solutions.
    CreateStudents build their genetic code out of their string and beads organizing it anyway they see fit to be tested and interpreted by the ribosome group across the table from them. This is what genetic engineering is, changing and inserting nucleic acids in different places that will create different results!_________________________________________________* This part of the activity should be done in near silence, explain to your students that in real life the nucleus can’t just talk to the other parts of the cell, they have to use the code!** If students are stuck consider giving them a hint, but limit them to 2-3 hints for the entire activity so that they try to solve this challenge organically.
    ImproveRarely do students engineer their code perfectly the first time. Most groups will choose an incorrect puzzle piece based on the code which will cause the groups to go back to the beginning of the engineering design process and create a new, better designed code.

    Over a few rounds students will get better and ultimately create an accurately built genetic code that will lead the ribosome group to choose the correct puzzle piece from their bag. Once this happens each group will bring forward their correct piece. Ask students to arrange them. Students will realize that their pictures add together to create a bigger picture of a candy bar!
    • This is a great time to give out a small piece of candy as a reward
    Closure / Student ReflectionsWhile students are enjoying their candy bar you can take this time to explain that what they actually made in class as they put their pieces together was a big section of amino acids that forms the protein “Insulin” which their bodies are using at this very moment to enjoy the candy bar you just gave them. How cool is that!?
    Possible Modifications / ExtensionsOnce you and students understand how this challenge plays out you could easily make different color codes that make different chains of amino acids and therefore different proteins.
    • Possible extension could be making Keratin protein (important for fingernails/hair)
    • Having a competition to see which group can solve it the fastest
    • Having students develop their own color codes that their classmates can try to solve.

     

    LINKS TO HANDOUTS:

     

    Activity Overview with Detailed Instructions

     

    NUCLEUS Handouts

    RIBOSOME Handouts

     

    *** All links have also been shared on Dropbox ***