National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Use of Biotechnology in Selecting the Right Plants
6 - 8
Students will simulate how a type of biotechnology called Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) is used to identify crop plants that have desirable traits such as sweet tasting fruit or natural resistance to a pest or disease.
For each student:
- Super Strawberries activity handout
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
enzyme: protein catalyst, which speeds up a specific chemical reaction
genetic code: groups of three nucleotide bases (codons) which specify a particular amino acid
marker assisted selection (MAS): indirect selection process that is not selected based on the trait we observe but rather on the genetic markers that will bind to the genes that code for the trait we are looking for
amino acid: biochemical units from which all proteins are made, twenty different amino acids occur most commonly in the proteins of all life forms
base: one of four different chemical units comprises DNA or RNA which codes for the amino acid sequence of proteins, four bases are adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, uracil substitutes for thymine in RNA
base pair: two complementary bases on opposing strands of the sugarphosphate ladder structure of DNA
chromosome: rod or thread-like structures found in cell nuclei; contains the DNA molecules that make up the chromosome’s genes
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): chemical that makes up genes (the information molecules for the cell); looks like a spiral ladder, with sugar and phosphate groups as the ladder sides and the four bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine) as the rungs
biotechnology: techniques that collectively allow the precise identification, isolation, alteration, and re-introduction of heritable traits to living organisms for specific purposes
protein: molecule composed of a chain of many amino acids that acquires a particular folded shape due to the amino acid sequence; both the amino acid sequences and the pattern of folding are involved in the specific functions of the protein
restriction enzyme: enzyme that will cut DNA molecules only at sites where particular sequences of base pairs occur
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask your students to brainstorm everything they know about strawberries. List facts on the board as students brainstorm. Use further guided questions to help them identify how strawberries are grown, that they are a fruit, their nutritional value, etc. Use the attached Strawberry Commodity Fact Sheet for more information.
- Ask your students what type of characteristics they like in a strawberry. List characteristics such as sweetness, flavor, size, etc.
- Ask students if they were a strawberry farmer, what type of characteristics they would like in a strawberry. Strawberry farmers are looking for the same characteristics as consumers, however, they are also interested in choosing a variety of berry that is resistant to diseases or pests and that has an adequate shelf life.
- With this basic introduction to strawberries, students are now prepared to learn about specific DNA markers in strawberries and how science and agriculture work together to produce strawberries and other foods.
- Ask students to write down 20 nucleotide bases using the symbols A,T,G,C in any order. Next have them switch with a partner and have their partner write the complementary base strand below the original strand.
- Show YouTube Video, DNA Extraction and Marker Assisted Selection to explain the process of genetic markers.
- Discuss how scientists can build genetic markers in the lab that have complementary base pairs to genes that they are interested in identifying in plants. Fluorescent green protein is added to these markers so they light up and glow green when they find and adhere to the gene of interest. Markers can be added to cells on a microscope slide or to extracted DNA on a microscope slide. If the DNA from the cells glows green, then the plant has the gene that the scientist is looking for. This will help scientists quickly identify which plants they want to select for breeding.
- Distribute the Super Strawberries student activity handout and review each section. Do one example with the class.
- After students complete the activity, have students draw each strawberry, color, and label its characteristics. Have students circulate through the room in small groups to view the class drawings and discuss why they think MAS technology is important for our future. Have each group share their thoughts with the class.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
At the completion of this activity, summarize and review the following key concepts:
- Farmers use their knowledge of science and biological processes to determine the best varieties of plants to grow.
- Scientists help select and promote desirable traits in crops (such as strawberries) by using knowledge of genetics and heredity.
- Using advanced science and biology in the production of our food enables farmers to provide enough food for a growing population.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
For in-depth information on agricultural biotechnology, download Food and You. A Guide to Modern Agricultural Biotechnology by the American Council on Science and Health. 2013.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Enhancing Our World Research Activity (Activity)
- How to Extract DNA from Anything Living (Activity)
- Agricultural Research Magazine (Book)
- Strawberry DNA Necklace (Kit)
- Crop Modification Techniques (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Some Like it Hot: Climate Change and Agricultural Pests (Multimedia)
- The Life of a Seed- Jake, a GMO Seed (Multimedia)
- Garden Genetics: Teaching With Edible Plants (Teacher Reference)
- Genetic Science Learning Center (Website)
- Journey of a Gene (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Describe how biological processes influence and are leveraged in agricultural production and processing (e.g., photosynthesis, fermentation, cell division, heredity/genetics, nitrogen fixation) (T4.6-8.b)
- Provide examples of science and technology used in agricultural systems (e.g., GPS, artificial insemination, biotechnology, soil testing, ethanol production, etc.); explain how they meet our basic needs, and detail their social, economic, and environmental impacts (T4.6-8.i)
Education Content Standards
Biotechnology Systems Career Pathway
BS.03.04Apply biotechnology principles, techniques and processes to enhance plant and animal care and production (e.g., selective breeding, pharmaceuticals, biodiversity, etc.).
MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-LS1-5Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
MS-LS3 Heredity: Inheritance and Variations of Traits
MS-LS3-2Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.
MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
MS-LS4-5Gather and synthesize information about technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.