Genetic Engineering: Journey of a Gene - Lesson Set

Petri dish with genetically engineered plant material
Resource Summary
Genetic Engineering: Journey of a Gene is a standards-aligned, 5-E life science unit that adapts the Journey of a Gene online learning modules created by Dr. Don Lee for the high school biology classroom.
High School
Classroom Instruction
At-Home Instruction
Life Sciences
Systems Thinking
Informed Decision Making
Science Standard:
HS-LS1-1  HS-LS1-2  HS-LS3-3  HS-ETS1-3 


Throughout this unit, students will explore the process of creating genetically engineered organisms and examine their real world applications. The online learning environment provide students with an authentic agricultural scenario with real scientists explaining how genetic engineering is used to solve a disease problem in soybeans. In addition, students will conduct a series of hands-on, minds-on activities including extracting strawberry DNA, carrying out an inquiry-based flower dissection to explore structure and function, and conducting a simulation of backcross breeding. Students will use their learning to address socioscientific problems by designing transgenes to solve a number of real-world food and health issues.

Lesson 1 | Designing a Genetically Engineered Organism
  • This lesson utilizes resources from to review the concepts of DNA, genes and proteins through animation, activities, and discussion. This lesson introduces the first three steps in crop genetic engineering (extracting DNA, locating and cloning a gene, and modifying a gene). Students will perform a sample extraction of DNA. In addition, students are introduced to gene regions, their functions, and their application in genetically engineering organisms. Students will practice designing a transgene through in- class activities. Lastly, a quiz option is available to assess retention of ideas.
Lesson 2 | Gene Insertion
  • Genetic engineering is a form of biotechnology in which one or more genes are added to an organism to produce a desired trait. This lesson introduces how a transgene is inserted into an organism in order to create a genetically engineered organism. With prior understanding of basic genetics (Mendelian principles of heredity, DNA structure & function, mitosis & meiosis) students will use an interactive online animation to learn about the process of engineering a plant. Video content from "Journey of a Gene" will be used to show how this process is applied in a real-world plant transformation lab.
Lesson 3 | Flower Anatomy and Plant Breeding
  • Students will use this module to learn about the basic structure and function of flower anatomy as it relates to plant breeding.
Lesson 4 | Backcross Breeding with Transgenic Plants
  • Students will learn the role of traditional plant breeding techniques in genetic transformations and perform a simulation of backcross breeding.

Curriculum Connections

Next Generation Science Standards

  • 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 of specialized cells.
  • HS-LS1-2. Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
  • HS-LS3-3. Apply concepts of statistics and probability to explain the variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population.
  • HS-ETS1-3 Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.