Author:
Bonnie Waltz, Deanna Mayers, Tracy Rains
Subject:
Life Science, Biology
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Level:
High School
Grade:
9, 10, 11, 12
Tags:
  • Biology
  • Biotechnology and Change
  • DNA
  • Genetics
  • Gregor Mendel
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Language:
    English
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video

    Problem Based Module: Designer Babies

    Problem Based Module: Designer Babies

    Overview

    In this project, you will explore a real-world problem, and then work through a series of steps to analyze that problem, research ways the problem could be solved, then propose a possible solution to that problem. Often, there are no specific right or wrong solutions, but sometimes one particular solution may be better than others. The key is making sure you fully understand the problem, have researched some possible solutions, and have proposed the solution that you can support with information / evidence.

    Begin by reading the problem statement in Step 1. Take the time to review all the information provided in the statement, including exploring the websites, videos and / or articles that are linked. Then work on steps 2 through 8 to complete this problem-based learning experience.

    THE PROBLEM

    THE PROBLEM

    Over the summer of 2017, scientists successfully used a tool called CRISPER to modify the chromosome of a human embryo. In the process, they removed a dangerous heart defect that could have ended the child’s life (If the embryo was allowed to grow). This was the first time such a feat was accomplished on a viable embryo. Can you think of a person in your life that would benefit from this process? Learn more about the discovery here. This amazing medical feat could save millions, but has sparked controversy. Some view it as a Pandora’s box, with the potential for using the technology to create designer babies. Through this case study, you will look at the development of gene editing technology, then form an ethical opinion on the creation of “super babies.”  

    In history, the first person to manipulate genes for scientific purposes was Gregor Mendel. His experiments established the foundation for modern genetics. His experiments involving pea plants to demonstrate how traits are passed from one generation to the next. Learn about these experiment by reading “Mendel.” How many traits have you inherited from your parents? If you are unsure, look in the mirror and think about eye and hair color.  

    From Mendel’s work, we understood that traits could be inherited, but no one clearly understood the mechanism at work. The credit for that discovery goes to Watson and Crick who discovered the structure of DNA. To learn more about this history, look at this link for an interactive timeline.

    Over the years, work on DNA advanced. In the late 1990’s scientists set out to identify all the genes in a human. This concept was called the Human Genome Project. It took nearly 15 years and several million dollars to complete. In the year 2003, through a joint announcement, it was complete. Learn more by reading “An overview of the human genome project.” In today’s time, we can do the same experiment in 26 hours! In your lifetime, what devices or processes are a lot faster now than you remember them?  

    Around the time of the Human Genome Project, a group of scientists began attempts to clone a mammal. This was considered an impossible task because of the complexity of mammals. Regardless, it didn’t stop them. Capture the feel of this experiment by watching the following clip from the “New York Times report.”  Eventually they successfully created Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal. The sheep was an identical copy of its parent, except for some small bits of mitochondrial DNA. Cloning is an inexact science. The sheep experiment resulted in hundreds of failures. The thought of repeated failures of human cloning was unacceptable and led most nations to ban the procedure. Learn more about cloning and transgenic animals by reading this article “The Clone.”  The major drawback is that cloning related process such as stem cell research was also restricted. Imagine every cell in your body being a spare part for a broken cell; this is the potential of stem cell research. What situations would this help in your life? If you need help, look at this article “Spray on Burn Treatment” for inspiration.  

    Between the Human Genome Project, Dolly, and the creation of the CRISPER tool, concerns have arisen over the possibility of “designer babies.”  A designer baby is a baby produced with specific desirable traits requested by parents or scientists. This means if you want a 7-foot-tall kid that runs fast and has a genius IQ, you just insert those genes.  The science isn’t that easy, but it’s the basic idea.  Learn more about the concept at “Designer Babies.”

    For this case study, reflect on your understanding of genetics. Form an ethical position moving forward on your position on designer babies. Should parents be permitted to produce children with the genetic traits they want, or should this type of procedure be banned outright?  Be sure to justify your reasoning from both your perspective and the view of society as a whole.  

    DEFINE THE ISSUE

    DEFINE THE ISSUE

    Think

    1. How could you sort/classify/categorize this problem? What type of problem is it?

    2. What is the motive/underlying theme/message?

    Do

    • Use your words to summarize the problem in 4-6 sentences.

    WHAT DO YOU KNOW

    WHAT DO YOU KNOW

    Think

    1. List the keywords from the case study. Put a check beside words you are familiar with prior to starting this project.

    2. Brainstorm and categorize to create a list of the significant parts of this problem.

    Do

    • Make a chart showing what you know that will help you solve the problem.

    ANALYZE THE CASE INFORMATION

    ANALYZE THE CASE INFORMATION

    Think

    1. Determine if the information is based on fact or opinion.

    2. Distinguish relevant/irrelevant information from the current case study and provided resources.

    3. How would you compare/contrast the constraints and opportunities of the problem?

    4. Infer and explain information that is important to the case solution, but is not explicitly stated in the case.

    Do

    • Develop and write out the problem statement in your own words.

    POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

    POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

    Think

    1. What are other possible outcomes?

    2. Analyze and explain the multiple perspectives/solutions within this case.

    3. What conclusions can you draw from your research?

    4. Generate alternative solutions.

    Do

    • Gather, organize, and interpret information from multiple sources.

    • Based on what you know, defend your preferred solution.

    RESEARCH SOLUTION

    RESEARCH SOLUTION

    Think

    1. Research the knowledge and data you need to support the solution and fill in missing gaps.

    2. Investigate and draw conclusions about how the preferred solution impacts the world today.

    3. What changes to your preferred solution will/have you made?

    4. What evidence justifies your solution?

    Do

    • Select decision criteria.

    • Analyze and evaluate alternatives.

    CONSTRUCT CONCLUSIONS

    CONSTRUCT CONCLUSIONS

    Think

    1. Review your research and develop a solution, providing supporting documentation to convince others of your solution.

    2. Decide if you will be creating an argument or a model to illustrate your solution.

    Do

    • Develop a plan/proposal with supporting documentation to convince others of your solution.

    • Make sure to include the following items in your proposal.  (Feel free to include additional information as you need to explain your solution.)

    • Describe your findings and/or recommendations.

    • List the problem statement questions.

    • Break down the data you gathered into an analysis that supports your solution(s) or recommendation(s).

    • Summarize the process you used and options considered, along with any difficulties you encountered.

    • Your presentation can be a video of yourself presenting your model or argument, or it can be an animated video using infographics and other images.

    REFLECTIONS

    REFLECTIONS

    Think

    1. How did you decide to…?

    2. What seemed difficult?

    3. What seemed (or eventually became) easy?

    4. If you were to do any part of this over, what would it be and how would you change it?

    5. What did you learn about the topic or about yourself during this project?

    Do

    Write a 3-5 paragraph reflection essay including these three parts:

    1. Include an introduction where you focus directly on explaining what aspect of your experiences you will discuss in the reflection.

    2. The body of the essay should explain how you have changed or what you have learned. Make certain to explain what things caused you to change.

    3. In the conclusion of a reflective essay, you should discuss how you have changed and the effect of those changes. You should share how you think the experience will change you in the future.