Let’s Learn About STE(A)M

What is STE(A)M?

It is a combination of  STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and ART.   In this lesson that I will introduce, I will address the idea of genetic engineering.

Engage:  Students will get in groups to determine the differences between diagrams of two of the same organisms.  They will discuss what they all see and write it down in separate colors.  Why do they think these differences exist?

Explore:  In groups of 4 or 5, let students work together to think of a biological factor that they would love to create to allow new innovations in the world.  Maybe a group wants to create a bacteria that is able to fight off pneumonia OR a group wants to genetically engineer a plant so it has properties to fight Alzheimers disease.  These students will create a short essay on their idea and create a model to display their ideas.

Explain:  With this background knowledge of showing how organisms can be changed genetically to benefit our society, students will create their own flexible definition and idea of what “genetic engineering” truly is.

Elaborate:  Let students do their independent research on how genetic engineering is relevant in their lives.  Maybe they can do research on cloning or GMOs.  Anything that strikes their interest in the world of genetic engineering.


Evaluate:  Individually give each student an exit slip on the pros and cons of genetically modifying biological organisms to our benefit.  Do they think it is morally right?  Is this a new step in science?  Keep it open ended.

Adding a creative component to your classroom allows students to explore their own ideas and beliefs on topics like this.  Throwing in art into STEM activities allows students to display and creatively articulate their own learning process and understanding of a topic.

Source:  https://www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/uoh_genetic_lesson01


  1. Michael, I loved the TED video, and I agree completely on the importance of art in STEM. The connections with Steve Jobs and Da Vinci make a lot of sense. Regarding your lesson plan, I’m a little unsure of how the “engage” would be executed. The picture differences in the engage section seem simple enough, but I’m wondering how students will have a model for how something like fighting Alzheimer’s disease from a plant could be done. I agree that every biology class should at some point carry a discussion of ethics on GMOs, so I like that this is where you ended it (I’m fairly pro-GMO myself, so I like that students with concerns can typically have them put to rest with a class discussion). Great post, sorry for the long comment.

    • Having students use open discussion talking about some other biotechnological advancements is a good way to have them be engaged and have them explore these concepts! I want students to research the basic biology of Alzheimer’s and other diseases, and then use their creativity to try and think of methods they could design a biological catalyst to fight the disease.

  2. Loved it! Do you think that in the explore students will be trying to figure out how this would work or just coming up with something? Also, I really liked how in your evaluate you keep it very open ended. It still is evaluating whether or not the student understands the concepts you were trying to teach, but leaves it open so that they can really explain to you what their thoughts are. Great job!

    • The general idea is having students to research the biology of a certain disease and just kind of come up with something that could theoretically fight a disease. Evaluation should be kept open-ended for the most part, it always just depends on what kind of lesson you are teaching! Thanks Margaux!

  3. Hello Michael!
    Being a biotechnology major myself, I think this is a really important STE(A)M activity. genetic engineering is becoming more and more prevalent in our society today with the flavor savor tomatoe and gentic hybrid organisms. I like how you allow the students to research into this topic and then have an exit slip. I specifically like allowing them to write an essay about genetically engineering an organism. This brings in more imagination. I do know some sites that you could use with this lesson. NCBI is a database for all the genetic material for different organisms. It includes sequences and comparing and contrasting of the different DNA sequences. I like the exit slip idea because it causes the students to think. It gives them a chance to show their knowledge about the subject. There is a lot of information on this topic online from biotechnology sites. I used to research this data in biotechnology. The only thing that I would suggest to do in this lesson is give them a starting point. Tell them which sites are credible and which are not— there is a bunch of junk out there. Introduce them to these sites and show them actual examples of engineered organisms. Examples include corn and wheat hybrids, salmon 2.o, flavor savor tomatoe, etc. In my time in biotechnology, I actually genetically engineered a bacterial cell to glow in the dark. I did this by adding a gene that codes for luciferin in fireflies. The bacteria actually glowed! If you have any questions about my time in biotechnology, just ask. Please incorporate this into your classroom. Awesome post!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Wow! Thank you Delaina! You are completely right about giving them a starting point! I was trying to find a site to use that would aid in the student’s understanding. Genetic engineering is a huge part of science today and I think it would be very relevant to allow students to take advantage of this kind of knowledge. Giving credible sources is always a good way to have students know what is valid to use and what is not.

  4. Great idea Michael! I really like the idea of the students creating their own model of their ideas! Its a great way to tie in the different aspects of STEM and STE(A)M. Would you be providing the materials for the students to make their models out of, and if so, what kind of materials could they use? I also really like the idea of students researching GMOs and how they affect us in our everyday lives. Educating people on what GMOs really are is a great first step in removing the stigma around them!

    • Thank you Bryce! Having students create their own models would be a good way to incorporate art into my science classroom! And for creating the models, it would be very open-ended. I would provide materials, but students are definitely welcome to bring other approved materials to enhance their models as they like. Educating students on what real-life applications biotechnological advancements are happening is essential to their understanding.

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