The different facets of genetic mutation and what it means to an organism are explored through diatoms, in this unit. The lessons revolve around diatoms, a single celled, visually engaging, organism essential to marine ecosystems. Lesson activities are structured to support student comprehension of the roles of proteins, how the genetic code is used, causes of mutations and what mutation can mean to an organism in its environment. The lesson fuses important information about diatoms with information about genetic processes, bringing the issue of genetic mutation into a novel real world scenario.

  • Students understand that genes determine phenotype through a variety proteins with different functions.
  • Students understand that the pattern of base pairs in a gene determines the structure of the protein which the gene codes for.
  • Students learn what a genetic mutation is and ways which mutations can be caused.
  • Students apply knowledge of mutations to diatoms and use critical thinking in order to create hypothetical mutant diatoms.
  • Genes directly determine phenotype.
  • Proteins are what you find in meat.
  • Only organisms have phenotypes, cells don't.
  • Genes make proteins.
  • Genes tell proteins what to do.
  • Genes are proteins.
  • Mutations are unnatural.
  • Mutations are all caused by chemicals.
  • All mutations are bad.
  • This unit comprises four main lessons, each with its own central activity. Each lesson has a provided PowerPoint file, a 5E lesson plan, student notebook and all necessary materials.
  • This lesson uses the analogy of a construction site and its workers to teach students about protein's different jobs in the cell. Students use matching in order to solidify these concepts.
  • This lesson uses paper snowflakes and genes to teach students about how the genetic code is used to create proteins. The lesson also introduces the concept of genetic mutation and its effects on protein structure.
  • This lesson gives students the opportunity to learn about how genetic mutations are caused through reading articles and presenting them to the class.
  • This lesson gives students the opportunity to synthesize all of their new knowledge about mutation through the creation of their own hypothetical mutants of a single celled organism called a phytoplankton. This lesson includes a final project where students create and present scientific posters on their hypothetical mutants.
  • This lesson is intended for a 7th grade life science classroom. It can be taught as a standalone activity but is best when it follows the Primary Production unit authored by Sarah Lerch and Felicia Ryder. The final project is the creation and presentation of a poster.
  • The final project will occur during the final 3-4 days of the unit. This project will allow students to synthesize the information they have learned about mutation by explaining their own hypothetical mutants in a professional poster and presentation. Students will be provided with poster templates and a rubric defining the expectations for these posters.
  • Assessment of student progress towards learning goals is focused on gauging student comprehension through class discussions, presentations, notebook entries, comparison of initial and final hypotheses as well as the final project.
  • Five E learning method used. All lessons are divided into engage, explore and explain sections. Student notebooks are also provided with each lesson within the unit. These notebooks are structured around students hypothesizing, gathering evidence and analyzing that evidence over the course of the lesson.
  • CA Next Generation Science Standards MS-LS3-1: Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.
Genetics and DNA Review
Background on Diatoms
Additional Information on Proteins
Information on the Relationships between Genes and Proteins
Information on Mutations

Gene to Protein


Related Lessons
Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: 7th
  • Time Frame: 3-3.5 weeks

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