Targeted Genome Editing
In this activity, high school students develop an understanding of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system and create an infographic (or poster or model) to demonstrate their understanding of the system.
Time to Complete
- Computer and internet access
- CRISPR-Cas Note-Taking Guide and Infographic worksheet, 1 per student
- Poster/Infographic Rubric, 1 per student
- Poster paper
- 3 x 5 index cards
- Optional: 3D Modeling supplies
- Background Information for student or teacher reference
- Ask your class these questions:
- How are scientists using genetic engineering to improve the food that we eat? Possible answer: The genes from one organism can be added to the same kind of organism or to another kind of organism to make the plants more nutritious or resistant to disease.
- Imagine that scientists can edit DNA as easily as correcting typos on a computer. What impact do you think this would have on the food that we eat? The students might answer that it will be easier to change a plant’s genes with targeted genome editing methods (such as the CRISPR-Cas system) than with non-targeted modification methods such as selective breeding, chemical or UV methods, and rDNA methods.
- What advancements could you expect to see in agriculture in the next 5 years? Some responses could include more changes in the plants we eat, more varieties of plants that we eat, plants that are more nutritious or more resistant to pests, or our environment might be better because plants could be changed to reduce the need for certain pesticides.
- Give each student one copy of the CRISPR-Cas Note-Taking Guide and then show these four videos:
- Students should answer the questions on their worksheet and take notes as needed. Remind students that they will use the information to create an Infographic or other visual presentation.
- After completing the questions, discuss everyone’s responses. Discuss ways of visually representing knowledge designed to make complex ideas and large amounts of data easy to understand.
- Have students consider how they will create their own infographic to help others better understand the CRISPR-Cas genome editing system.
- Refer to A Visual Guide to Genetic Modification. Look at the Conventional Crossbreeding Infographic and have students see what information can be learned from the infographic.
- Answer the Infographic Planning questions listed at the bottom of the student worksheets.
- Have students consider the infographic examples at Good to Better – A ‘critique’ with ideas & tips to improve your infographics. The slides have good suggestions for improving infographics.
- Assign students to create a CRISPR-Cas infographic that explains how the system can edit the genome of a plant. Students should use other resources and include citations for each. Critical points for infographic project groups include:
- What information is essential? What isn’t? (refer to the worksheet)
- What colors and layout work best?
- What is the best way to have the information flow?
- Students should create a rough sketch of their infographic. They can be created digitally using a program such as Easel.ly or Piktochart, or they can be made with poster paper and markers. Refer students to the rubric for criteria on their infographic.
- Display the completed infographics in the classroom. Create a gallery walk and, using post-its®, discuss the best features of each infographic. After the gallery walk, review the comments and using the rubric, score the infographics.
- Review by asking students for their anonymous review/evaluation of this activity on an index card using a 3-2-1 evaluation:
- List 3 things they have learned.
- List 2 questions they still have.
- List 1 concern.
Genome editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas are powerful tools that scientists can use to target specific locations in the genome for editing (add, remove, or modify a gene to increase or decrease its expression) and thus change the traits of that organism. The promise and challenges that genome editing systems hold for agriculture are currently unknown. But, based on the results we have now, it is exciting to think about crops of the future and what they might be able to do.