Designer Genes for  a Designer World


In this series of guided inquiry activities, students explore how organisms adapt to their environments through changes in their genetic codes.

Learner Outcomes

The learner will:

  • create make-believe creatures and environments that have specific characteristics.
  • rate the success of each creature in a randomly assigned environment by examining which of the creature's characteristics help, hinder, or have no effect on the creature's success in each environment.
  • write the genetic code for their creatures from a list of fictitious genetic codes.
  • apply his/her knowledge of genetic codes and environments to engineer new creatures that could survive in various extreme environments within our solar system.

National Science Education Standards

Materials and Technology

Scientific Background

Teacher Lesson Plans

Activity 1: Construct imaginary creatures and environments from the lists of characteristics below.

Activity 2: Write out the genetic code for the original creatures you created in Activity #1.

Activity 3: Design a creature that could live in each of the planet/moon environments described on your planet and moon environment cards.

Teacher Lesson Plans

Activity 1: Constructing Imaginary Creatures and Environments

Activity Page One asks students to create three unique creatures and three unique environments from a list of provided creature and environment characteristics. The students will then reason about the success of creatures in their environments based on a scoring rubric.

Activity 2: Discovering Your Creatures' Genetic Code

Activity Page Two challenges students to write out the genetic code for each of their creatures from Activity #1. Students will then experiment with changes in the genetic code resulting in changes in creature characteristics in response to environmental condtions.

Activity 3: Creating Your Own Creature

Activity Page Three asks students to design creatures that can live in some of the extreme environments of our solar system.

Lesson Debriefing