Lesson 3 – Bioengineering and Gene Regulation

Description: This lesson has 2 elements; a detailed guide to gene transcription and translation, and operon modeling skits. Students dive further into sustainable fuels, the promise of algae and bioengineering and how to use the power of gene transcription and translation.

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COURSE: Life Science, Environmental Science, Integrated Science, STEM, BioChem

UNIT: Photosynthesis, Ecology, Biogeochemical Cycling, Genetics

OBJECTIVES: See the Standards Addressed page for information about the published standards and process we use when aligning lessons with NGSS and other Science, Math, Literacy and 21st Century skills). Here is a document that displays all NGSS for this module. In addition to the aligned objectives listed in buttons on the upper-left of this page and in the table below, for this lesson, here is a breakdown of:

What students learn:
  • The definition and function of a gene regulatory network, including how it can be controlled with operons.
  • Students access prior knowledge on genotypes to phenotypes and apply that knowledge to the topics of gene regulatory networks and bioengineering.


What students do:
  • Students will form connections between genotypes and phenotypes including examples of how the environment can affect gene expression.
  • Students will present a skit representing one of two main forms of control–positive and negative, in operons.



Aligned Next Generation Science Standards
All three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards are addressed in this lesson. Please note that based on what part of this lesson you emphasize with students, you will cover different NGSS to different levels. Based on what is possible, we have listed here and in the buttons on the left the NGSS that are make the most sense to integrate and emphasize with this content. Please note that in the buttons on the left there are more SEPs and CCCs listed than in the chart below. That is because these other SEPs and CCCs are covered when students complete their algae experiments which span the entire length of the module.

Performance expectations:

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.

HS-LS1-3 – Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.

HS-LS2-7 – Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

HS-LS3-1 – Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.

HS-ESS3-4 – Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces the impacts of human activities on natural systems.

HS-ETS1-3 – Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and tradeoffs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Science and Engineering Practice

Disciplinary Core Idea

Crosscutting Concept

SEP-1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information

SEP-2: Developing and Using Models

Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system.

SEP-6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Construct and revise explanations based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumptions that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion.

LS1.A: Structure and Function

All cells contain genetic information in the form of DNA molecules. Genes are regions in the DNA that contain the instructions that code for the formation of proteins, which carry out most of the work of cells.

Feedback mechanisms maintain a living system’s internal conditions within certain limits and mediate behaviors, allow it to remain alive and functional even as external conditions change within some range.

LS2.C: Ecosystems Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

If a biological or physical disturbance to an ecosystem occurs, including one induced by human activity, the ecosystem may return to its more or less original state or become a very different ecosystem, depending on the complex set of interactions within the ecosystem.

LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits

DNA carries instructions for forming species’ characteristics. Each cell in an organism has the same genetic content, but genes expressed by cells can differ.

ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Sustainability of human societies and of the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources, including the development of technologies.

CCC-2: Cause and Effect

Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

CCC-4: Systems and System Models

Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions – including energy, matter, and information flows – within and between systems at different scales.

CCC-6: Structure and Function

Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal their function and/or solve a problem.

CCC-7: Stability and Change

Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.


TIME: 1-2 50 minute periods depending on skit planning (plan operon skits in the 1st period & presented in the next)

PREREQUISITES: Before class, students should be familiar with DNA and how it contains our genotypes, transcription and translation in the central dogma (DNA→RNA→Protein), and general knowledge about carbon cycling.


This lesson has 2 elements; a detailed guide to gene transcription and translation, and operon modeling skits. First, introduce the lesson by reminding students of the stakes set up in lesson 1 – the need for sustainable fuels, the promise of algae and bioengineering – and explain that they are going to gain more knowledge through reading, discussion, applying, modeling, and presenting their new knowledge. Use these slides (Google | PowerPoint) to share the objectives and agenda for this lesson, then move into the genotypes to phenotypes activity.


This activity will provide students with a more detailed understanding of the process of gene transcription and translation. It is best done on paper so students can highlight and annotate the text, as well as answering the questions. The format of the activity is up to you – it could be a homework assignment with discussion in class, or an individual or group task during class. Provide opportunities for students to share and hear the responses of other students. It is also up to you how much scaffolding and teacher input you provide – you could do a supplementary lecture before or after students read the material, or display the answer key on the board and have students add to their own responses.


Through this activity (Google | MS Word), students will learn the details of bacterial gene regulation by acting out the mechanisms of the lac and trp operons. The idea here is to connect to prior knowledge – many biology courses use the lac operon in particular as the classical gene regulation example. If your students don’t have this exposure, you may want to frontload this lesson with some explicit instruction. Students will work in teams of ~6 for the skits (see below) – you can organize them into these groups before or after the video and pre-activity questions.


Part I: Begin by showing the video found in the slides (Google | PowerPoint), or directly accessing it here: Bozeman Science – Gene Regulation. Tell students they will be using what they learn from the video to plan skits, so they need to pay close attention! Have students take notes by answering the prompts on their handouts (which follow the sequence of the video). Give them time after the video to add to their notes, share with neighbors, and debrief as a class to ensure everyone understood the content.

Part II: Give students time to answer the pre-activity questions. This could be individual or group work, depending on your class. Debrief again and address any misconceptions you hear.

Part III: Skit time! Organize students into groups of 6 and assign each group the Lac or Trp operon skit. If your class does not evenly divide into groups of 6, make some groups smaller and have students perform multiple parts by using different notecards, OR make some groups larger and have some duplicate roles. (Example: multiple students could be lactose to represent excesses of the molecule at appropriate times). Give teams ~15 minutes to plan their skits (adjust as needed). Then allow each team to present their skit to the class. Evaluate each team using the provided rubric. Provide verbal feedback or ask other students to do so if they notice any inaccuracies in the skits, perhaps after all have been performed and they can compare them all.

Part IV: This could be assigned as homework after the skits, or in class if there’s time. Students will reflect on what they have learned and apply it to the specific example of algae, the focus of this unit.

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How will I know they know……



ELL students may benefit from a vocabulary list and peer notes that correspond with the module.