Bioinformatics, the study of biological data using various computational techniques, is a very important aspect of biology, and its integration would greatly benefit current high school curricula. However, because most bioinformatics tools have not been readily accessible until recently, most high school instructors were not exposed to them during their formative years. We describe a bioinformatics-based module that introduces the application of genome comparison in the identification of “pathogenic islands.” The module also introduces foundational concepts of horizontal gene transfer and the genetic basis of virulence, with a special focus on antibiotic resistance – a theme teachers and students alike can easily connect and relate to. The module takes students on a journey: from conceptualizing the perfect pathogen, to an immersive experience of being a pathogen, and finally the experience of being a research scientist identifying drug-resistant genes and other virulence factors using the bioinformatics tool of genome comparison.
Climate change can drive evolution. This connection is clear both historically and in modern times. The three-lesson curriculum described below provides opportunities for students to make connections between climate change and evolution through various modes of inquiry and self-investigation. Students examine how genetic variation may either facilitate or limit the ability for species to survive changing climates through work with the model organism Drosophila melanogaster . Students are asked to layer new understanding of the mechanisms of evolution onto their observations of genetic variation in fruit fly thermotolerance, and then synthesize this information to make predictions regarding the survival of species threatened by climate change.
Students measure and sketch physical characteristics of 15 fossilized horse teeth. Each student group creates a graph that summarizes the trend between age of the fossil and length of the tooth. Plant information cards summarizing the flora of each epoch and guided analysis questions allow students to develop an explanation for the change in horse teeth in response to plant evolution due to a changing climate.
Using Pompe disease as a context affords the opportunity for students to consider multiple biological concepts and embraces the Next Generation Science Standards Disciplinary Core Ideas Structure and Function (LS1.A) and Inheritance of Traits (LS3.A) as well as Crosscutting Concepts Structure and Function and Cause and Effect. These crosscutting concepts are very much interrelated as we consider progression of disease from the molecular to the organismal level. The concepts are repeatedly emphasized, providing “explicit instructional support” for students to “develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering.” DNA, proteins, enzymes, genetics, and human disease are taught together through the story of patients with Pompe disease as students engage in a simulated clinical assay and genetic analysis and present their findings in grand rounds. The activity is one of multiple lessons sequenced to scaffold student understanding of clinical and translational science, starting with a first-person perspective of a father who loses his infant son to Pompe and concluding with a role play based on actual events surrounding approval of human clinical trials of gene therapy for Pompe disease.
Practicing correct pipetting procedure doesn’t have to be boring. “Pipetting by Coordinates” is an effective way to teach necessary pipetting skills in an enjoyable manner. Students create designs as they add volumes of colored water to specific wells and gain experience using a basic biotechnology tool.