Lesson 4 – Solutions and Sustainability

Description: This final lesson in the module culminates in a project in which students propose a biotech company based on what they have learned. This lesson has two activities to prepare students for their final projects – one to learn more about the gene editing tool, CRISPR/Cas9, and another to explore the math and economics of bioengineering for sustainability.

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

UNIT: Photosynthesis, Ecology, Biogeochemical Cycling, Genetics

What students learn
  • How to apply math to bioengineering scenarios in the form of scaling to predict resource allocation and cost.
  • About the process of building their own hypothetical biotech company and work to produce a presentation worthy of funding.
  • The basics of the CRISPR/cas9 system as an example of biotechnology that can be used to create organisms engineered to aid in mitigating carbon emissions.
What students do
  • Students model CRISPR as an example of a bioengineering tool used to modify genomes in order to create desired phenotypes.
  • Students apply mathematics to solve problems related to scaling in order to create a product that could potentially replace a petroleum-fueled product.
  • Students produce a proposal for a biotech company that uses bioengineering to work towards sustainability, applying all of their knowledge gained during the unit. and present their proposal.
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-LS2-2 – Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

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

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

HS-ETS1-1 – Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

HS-ETS1-2 – Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

Science and Engineering Practice

Disciplinary Core Idea

Crosscutting Concept

SEP-1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Analyze complex real-world problems by specifying criteria and constraints for successful solutions.

SEP-4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Analyze data using tools, technologies and/or models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

SEP-5: Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking

Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

SEP-6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

SEP-7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

Ecosystems have carrying capacities resulting from biotic and abiotic factors. The fundamental tension between resource availability and organism populations, affects the abundance of species in any given ecosystem.

LS2.C: Ecosystem 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.

ESS3.B: 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

Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect

SEP-3: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

CCC-4: Systems and System Models

Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

CCC-6: Structure and Function

The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems an be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of their various materials



2-3, 50 minute class periods


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 final lesson in the unit culminates in a project in which students propose a biotech company based on what they have learned. This lesson has two activities to prepare students for their final projects – one to learn more about the gene editing tool, CRISPR/Cas9, and another to explore the math and economics of bioengineering for sustainability. Begin this lesson by reminding students of the overarching goals of this unit that were outlined in lesson 1. Use this PowerPoint to share the objectives and agenda for this lesson.


In this activity, students will read a short handout about CRISPR/Cas9, watch videos (CRISPR: Revolutionary Gene Editing, CRISPR: Gene Editing and Beyond, CRISPR Lab Tour Video and/or the many others available), use paper cutouts to model the system, then apply their understanding to modify sentences as an analogy for genes. Make copies of the handout for all students and enough copies of the paper cutouts for students to work in pairs. Decide on a method for watching the videos – students could watch with headphones on their own devices, or you could play them for the whole class and lead a discussion before students transition into the activity.

Allow students to work their way through the activity at their own pace. Circulate and answer questions as needed. Encourage pairs to communicate with each other if they have questions or get stuck.

The last step of the activity is a reflection question. You can assess this question in the format of your choice – have students submit written answers as an exit ticket, or share answers verbally with neighbors and/or the whole class.


These questions guide students through a series of mathematical tasks to explore the economic realities of using algae to produce biofuel and making comparisons to petroleum. If your students have strong math skills, this could be a homework assignment, then debriefed the following day. It could also be a class activity in the format of your choice. You should either grade the papers for accuracy or share answers with the class and have students self-grade in order to ensure accuracy and address any errors or misconceptions before students begin their final projects.


This final project will allow students to stretch their creative muscles and think about a way to use all the principles they have learned during this unit to propose an exciting new biotech company.

You can choose how to structure this project. Projects could be done individually or as small groups (max of 4, with your approval). They can also happen either in class or out of class, depending on schedule and resources. The whole project will take approximately 4 hours to complete.

As you introduce the project, remind students of the Current Events research project they did in lesson 1. They should take the research skills they developed, or perhaps the specific bioengineering topic they read about, and use it to build their background knowledge before proposing their company.

Use these resources, as you see fit for your students, to provide additional background resources, ideas and/or conversation starters. Ask students to list what they notice and what they wonder for each resource when watching and/or reading.

Video Clips
News Articles


Provide students with the project handout. This consists of a series of questions to guide students in working out their idea and flesh out their company. The project culminates in designing a presentation to pitch their company idea to the class and ask for “funding”. A fun twist on this idea would be to invite “celebrity judges” (other teachers, school staff, parent) to choose the best proposal(s) to receive funding. Evaluate student projects and their completion of the planning handout using the provided rubric.
You completed Instructional Activities. Please move to Assessment


  • How will I know they know……

Scaling Problems – Teacher Key

Biotech Startup Project Rubric