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Create an organism

In this project, students create their own organism, build models of DNA, and debate the ethical implications of genetic modification in one Project-Based Learning unit. Follow the links below for more information on each project component. 
Master & timeline

Master Plan & Timeline

Driving Question

To what extent should humans tinker with evolution through genetic modification and artificial selection to create organisms that are more useful to us?

Learning Objectives


  • Model building

  • Creativity and engineering

  • Presentation skills

  • Debating / Arguing a position

  • Marketing


  • Bio 1.2.3: Explain how specific cell adaptations help cells survive in particular environments (focus on unicellular organisms).

  • Bio 2.2.1: Infer how human activities (including population growth, pollution, global warming, burning of fossil fuels, habitat destruction and introduction of nonnative species) may impact the environment.

  • Bio 3.3.1: Explain the double-stranded, complementary nature of DNA as related to its function in the cell.

  • Bio 3.1.2: Explain how DNA and RNA code for proteins and determine traits.

  • Bio 3.1.3: Explain how mutations in DNA that result from interactions with the environment (i.e. radiation and chemicals) or new combinations in existing genes lead to changes in function and phenotype.

  • Bio 3.3.2: Summarize how transgenic organisms are engineered to benefit society.

  • Bio 3.3.3: Evaluate some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of DNA technology (including cloning, genetically modified organisms, stem cell research, and Human Genome Project).

Entry Event

Entry Event

October 19, 2015
  • Brainstorm ideas of organisms you could create that could be useful to humans
  • Create an organism using the materials in class or found outside
  • Group mini presentations 
Transgene Models

Transgene Modeling

November 16, 2015

See Rubric

  • Read about how transgenic crops are made by doing this 6-page online module 
    • INDIVIDUAL: Write a ½ page summary of this module

  • Take notes on  Mr. Haigler's DNA Lecture 
  • GROUP: Create a 3D model, skit, or animation that explains the process of how to make a transgenic crop (use the same crop as your Frankenfoods Prezi; see below).  Your product should address these questions:
    • How do you make a transgenic crop?

    • How do DNA and RNA code for proteins in the body?

    • What is a gene?

    • What does transgenic mean?

    • How does DNA act as a blueprint for organisms?

    • What are transcription and translation?

    • How do we use prokaryotes to change eukaryotic cells when making transgenes?

    • How does mutation normally happen in DNA and what are its effects on phenotype?



November 16, 2015
  • Play GM Sweet Potato game with the class.
  • Choose a Genetically Modified crop from this link
  • Make a group prezi that explains the following:
    • What trait your plant has that comes from genetic modification

    • Why that trait is beneficial

    • How that trait was introduced.  Explain the process in easy-to-understand language. USE YOUR TRANSGENE MODEL TO DO THIS.

    • Where that plant is used in the world

    • Where that plant is banned

    • Controversies or unintended consequences of using the plant (i.e. human health impacts, environmental impacts, hybridization with wild relatives, etc.)

GMO Labeling

Driving Question Debate

December 2, 2015
  • Prepare to debate the driving question:
    • To what extent should humans control evolution through genetic modification and artificial selection to create organisms that are more useful to us?

  • Mr. Haigler will assign you a position to defend
  • Research the pro’s and con’s of the issue from >3 GOOD sources
  • Take 1-3 pages of notes from your research and Mr. Haigler's Biotechnology Lecture 
  • Provide a bibliography of your sources
  • Participate fully in the debate through respectfully arguing your position and using evidence to back up your opinion

FINAL PRODUCT: Create an Organism

Create an Organism
December 7, 2015
  • Create an organism that could benefit humanity and try to sell it to a biotech company, then defend it to a governmental bioethics panel.  The final product should contain the following:
    • Visually appealing presentation.  All group members participate equally and show that they understand the material covered in this unit.

    • High quality illustration or 3D model of the organism

    • An explanation of how to create the organism using existing technology

    • An explanation of the Research and Development phase of your product.  How did you test to make sure it was safe to the general public?  Be specific.

    • A convincing sales pitch that outlines why this product is so beneficial, but also addresses the potential dangers or disadvantages of the product.  The pitch should explain why the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

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