Academic journal article Science Scope

Biotechnology in the Middle School Curriculum

Academic journal article Science Scope

Biotechnology in the Middle School Curriculum

Article excerpt


Biotechnology is a fairly new concept for middle school students as well as teachers. If the latest craze of TV shows focused on crime scence investigation events were not so popular, the term and concept might be even more obscure to the public. Student interest has certainly been captured with the crime shows on television and real news stories about DNA being used for conviction or acquittal of crime suspects. There is an increased presence of biotechnology in our daily surroundings that makes it practical and necessary to introduce the basic concepts in our classrooms today.

Biotechnology is so much more than DNA fingerprinting and profiling. Agriculture has long been involved in biotechnology through selective animal and plant breeding. Cheese, beer, and bread making are some original forms of biotechnology. Now agriculture continues to use biotechnology in new ways to improve crop and animal production, the fashion industry has utilized a couple of tricks to create desirable characteristics, and new drug development (and other medical advancements) are intensely involved with the latest biotechnology strategies.

The constraints of time, equipment, and funding are issues that all teachers face. The Biotechnology/Bio-informatics Discovery Project through Oklahoma City Community College offers professional development to middle and high school teachers with training in the use of the 14 biotechnology lab activities selected from highly regarded sources that have been modified or enhanced for use in chemistry, physics, biology, and environmental-science curricula. The greatest benefit of the project is in the elimination of hurdles such as the lack of equipment and time for preparation. All of that is provided by the project to schools where teachers have volunteered to participate. DNA Extraction and The Immunoassay Lab can be found in the module/kit descriptions on the website (see Resources). The standard operating procedures for these labs are also found at this website under the "Mock Biotechnology Company."

The National Science Education Standards, Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science stresses that it is important to observe and experiment to confirm or change ideas in science. Content Standard C: Life Sciences states that life function in cells and the biological diversity and adaptation of organisms are very engaging for middle school students. With this in mind, DNA extraction is an appropriate starting point for using biotechnology in the classroom. Learning about processes at the cellular level is abstract and difficult to visualize.

DNA extraction

The DNA Extraction Lab illustrates breaking down barriers (cell walls, cytoplasm, and proteins) that bind up the DNA within the cell in order to release the DNA (see DNA Extraction Lab Sheet). Because DNA is soluble in water, the sample is transferred to alcohol where the DNA comes out of solution and appears as a stringy opaque mass. Students will observe that

* DNA is white or cream colored,

* DNA is acidic,

* DNA is found in cells of living organisms, and

* DNA is soluble in water and insoluble in alcohol.

Students work in pairs with four 1.5 mL centrifuge tubes containing the following

* any brand of dish soap (diluted to 50% with water)

* raw wheat germ (from a health-food or grocery store, one bag costs approximately $3-4 and is enough for several hundred students)

* 1.5 mL of papain (substitutes may be 1.0 g of sodium-free Adolph's meat tenderizer in 15 mL of distilled water, or papaya juice, or five enzymatic contact lens cleaner tablets in 15 mL of distilled water, or contact lens cleaner solution containing papain may be used)

* table salt (not iodized)

* 15 mL falcon tube containing 6-7 mL of 70% ethanol or 91% isopropanol (from a pharmacy). Tubes for 2-3 groups may be kept cold together in a 16 oz. …

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