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Middle School, Genetic Engineering Projects, Lessons, Activities (9 results)

Genetic engineering, also called gene editing or genetic modification, is the process of altering an organism's DNA in order to change a trait. This can mean changing a single base pair, adding or deleting a single gene, or changing an even larger strand of DNA. Using genetic engineering, genes from one organism can be added to the genome of a completely different species. It is even possible to experiment with synthesizing and inserting novel genes in the hopes of creating new traits.

Many products and therapies have already been developed using genetic engineering. For example, crops with higher nutritional value, improved taste, or resistance to pests have been engineered by adding genes from one plant species into another. Similarly, expression of a human gene in yeast and bacteria allows pharmaceutical companies to produce insulin to treat diabetic patients. In 2020, scientists had their first successful human trial with CRISPR (a genetic engineering technique), to correct a mutant gene that causes sickle cell anemia, a painful and sometimes deadly blood disease.

There are many different genetic engineering techniques, including molecular cloning and CRISPR, and new techniques are being developed rapidly. Despite this variety, all genetic engineering projects involve carrying out four main steps:

  1. Identifying the trait to be introduced, eliminated, or otherwise modified.
  2. Determining what piece of DNA needs to be added or removed in order to get the desired trait modification.
  3. Making the physical modifications to the organism's DNA.
  4. Verifying that the trait has been modified as desired.

Learn more about genetic engineering, and even try your hand at it, with these resources.

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Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever heard or read about GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. Scientists can deliberately modify the DNA of organisms, such as bacteria or plants, to change their properties for a specific purpose. For example, crops can be modified to become more drought- or pest-resistant. Genetic engineering is a very powerful tool in biotechnology that has already found many different applications in agriculture, medicine, and industry. In this project, you will engineer a… Read more
STEM Activity
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Have you ever wondered how scientists get a sample of DNA from a plant, animal, or other organism? All living organisms have DNA. DNA, which is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the blueprint for almost everything that happens inside the cells of an organism — overall, it tells the organism how to develop and function. DNA is so important that it can be found in nearly every cell of a living organism. In this activity, you will make your own DNA extraction kit from household… Read more
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Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-12th
Create a two-part system for filtering greywater. Teams will focus on communication and systems engineering as they build separate components to filter solid and liquid waste and then combine them into one device. Learning Objectives Students will: Consider the potential effects of drought and how greywater could be part of the solution. Design a system for filtering out solid waste or liquid waste. Consider effective communication strategies with their team. Collaborate on their design… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
In this project, you'll learn how to isolate DNA from onion cells, separating it from other cellular components in a manner that still preserves its structure and sequence. In the end, you'll have enough DNA to see with the unaided eye, and you'll be able to spool it to demonstrate its strand-like structure. Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Our genes are made up of hundreds to millions of building blocks, called DNA nucleotides, and if just a single nucleotide of DNA becomes mutated it might cause a devastating genetic disease. But sometimes a mutation actually does no damage. What kinds of mutations have to occur to cause a genetic disease? In this science project, you will explore online genetic databases to identify how a mutation in a gene can result in a dysfunctional protein, and how other mutations may have no effect… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Can you imagine a glowing loaf of bread? You might not be able to make the whole loaf glow, but you can get baker's yeast to fluoresce! The way to do this is to modify the genetic information of the yeast organism. The technology that is used to do this is called genetic engineering. With genetic engineering, you can insert a fluorescent protein gene from a jellyfish into yeast cells, so they start glowing under blue light! Do this project to see for yourself! Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
Artificial intelligence (AI) programs can now generate photorealistic pictures of people who do not exist in the real world. How can you tell if a picture is of a real person or a fake, AI-generated person? What features of the picture do people use to decide whether the face is real or AI-generated? In this project, you will explore these questions as you ask volunteers to look at both real and AI-generated pictures of human faces. Read more
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-12th
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In this lesson plan, students will take a closer look at the most recent developments in gene editing. Specifically, they will learn about the CRISPR technology using various interactive simulations and other resources. Based on their gained knowledge, students will create a model of the CRISPR-Cas9 components and create a stop-motion animation video of the molecular mechanism of CRISPR-Cas9. Remote learning adaptation: This lesson plan can be conducted remotely. Students can work… Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-LS4-5. Gather and synthesize information about technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.
  • HS-LS1-1. Construct an explanation, based on evidence, for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins, which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.
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Did you know that you can change the genetic code of an organism? This technology is called gene editing or genetic engineering. Using gene editing tools, researchers can delete or modify existing genes in an organism, or even add new ones! With this ability, they can alter the way an organism—such as a bacteria, a plant, or an animal—looks or functions. For example, crops can be modified to become more drought-resistant, or bacteria can be engineered to produce medicine such as… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Ever used a pair of molecular scissors? Restriction enzymes are molecular scissors that cut DNA into pieces. Find out which enzymes will cut, and where by making a restriction map. Then you can figure out what will happen if you change the sequence of the DNA. Will the same enzymes still cut the new DNA sequence? Read more
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
Students explore adaptations by researching how animals, plants, and bacteria change based on their environment. They grow bacterial colonies in various environments and hypothesize how each environment will affect the cell culture size and color. After a day of pre-growth, the culture is spun down in a centrifuge and the cell pellet is analyzed. Finally, students research bacteria adaptations that allow them to survive in extreme environments then brainstorm how the… Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-LS1-5. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
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