STE(A)M Can Be Used in Biology Too!

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When people think about biology, most would probably recall sitting in class and trying to memorize parts of the cell or photosynthesis. Not many would say that they remembering designing something cool and being creative. However, this can be the case using STE(A)M!


S – Science
T – Technology
E – Engineering
A – Art
M – Mathematics

These subject areas can be brought together to help students learn new concepts and be creative when doing so!

But how? One example could be with learning about viruses and how they affect their hosts with the background of already having learned basic genetics and immune response. In case you forgot, here is a quick video about how viruses work.


To engage the class, the teacher could show information about some of the most deadly and widespread viruses that have plagued our world. Showing images, videos, and data to grab the attention of the students is crucial. You can also connect by using something like Ebola since we have recently dealt with an outbreak.


Allow students to research a virus of their choice to see what information they can integrate into their own background knowledge about how cells and replication work. Students can work in pairs to bounce ideas off of each other and strive to have a better understanding.

Image result for virus


Students can compare and contrast the viruses they researched to the rest of the class via a discussion. From there, students can create a definition of what a virus is and what it means to operate as a virus. After, the teacher can present basic information about viruses such as how they replicate and how they can become a problem for the cells.


This is where the STE(A)M really comes into the lesson.

Students can work in groups to create their own virus. It can be presented as aliens have invaded the Earth and scientists need to design a virus to infect the aliens so that we can regain control (assuming their physiology works similarly). Students can work to address concerns such as how will the virus be introduced into the alien population, how will the virus infect host cells, what parts of the cell will it affect, how will it replicate, how is it transmitted, and what are the symptoms of the virus?

Image result for alien clipart

Students will then create a pitch to the Committee on Earth Protection (aka the whole class) about their idea for the virus. They will need to be creative and address all of the concerns.


The evaluation will be the students in groups actually giving the pitch to the class. They will need to explain why their idea will work and how it will work in a creative way. They should not just be reading a powerpoint but actually giving a pitch. The students will vote on which idea they think will work the best to rid the Earth of these aliens. The prize is pride. All groups should be evaluated by the teacher based on a fair rubric.



If I were in high school learning about viruses, I would LOVE to do this activity. It makes sure that you are actually learning the material, but also allows you to be creative with not only designing the actual virus, but also in creating the pitch. I know I would definitely get really into the scenario and want to create the worlds deadliest virus.

Credit for idea to: LaKose, Cody D., “The inclusion of engineering design into the high school biology curriculum” (2015). Graduate Research Papers. 75.


  1. Margaux,

    The topic of viruses is a good idea! What really caught my attention was in the “elaborate” part of your learning cycle. The whole idea of aliens invading Earth is such a fun way to have students create something unique and fun, while still learning about the way viruses function! What are some other ways you can ENGAGE your students? Could you do more than have a discussion? What can get your students active with your lesson?

    • Thanks! I think having students research the effects of different viruses over time and see how influential or not influential they are would be a good way to engage them. Having them see pictures and look at trends and data from outbreaks would be really interesting even to me as a college student at this point. They can even connect it to viruses that they get vaccinations for now!

  2. Margaux! I absolutely loved your activity and lesson as a whole! I thought you were able to tie in creativity in so many different ways while also keeping science at the forefront. I think each piece of your lesson is so different and that every single student will be able to do something that they are best at or most comfortable with. I loved that in your engage you mentioned talking about Ebola because we just had an outbreak of it. I think its really important to make sure our lessons are relevant to the students and you were able to do that. Overall great post and great ideas!

    • Claire,
      Thanks so much! I tried to make it something each student could connect with and fully participate in the lesson. And yes, Ebola would definitely connect with people since its so recent! Thanks again!

  3. Margaux- Your elaborate is super engaging. It allows for students to use the their new found knowledge to explore an unknown and mysterious event. I think the best part has to do with the advocacy pitch to the Committee on Earth Protection; this is what STEM is all about! A huge part of STEM is to encourage real life applications of what is being learned. While this alien virus may not be a real-life things, being a health advocate definitely is! Scientists and doctors must be in contact with associations to encourage changes in health and medicine, which I assume is what your students would be doing. Do you think that this could be a good project to get students into the medical field? What would you further provide to students who want to learn more about viruses and medicine? As high school students, this could be pretty impactful!

    • Kate,
      Yes, I think this could be a really relevant and engaging way to get students involved in the medical field. When I was in high school, my biology teacher would bring in girls who had graduated years before and who were now in professional fields or school and would let them present to us. I think this is a great way to see how real world people are involved not just in medicine, but in research and other related fields. He was also really great about reaching out to hospitals to help us get shadowing experiences which was great for those of us interested in medicine! I shadowed several doctors which I genuinely thought was the coolest thing and it was all because of this great biology teacher!

  4. Margaux, I loved reading your blog! I actually do remember sitting in biology class trying to figure out how I was going to memorize the different parts of the cell, and that made it so much harder!
    I like your engage, I definitely think it would get the attention of the students. Do you think there is any type of demo you could include with it?
    I also like how you included that the students could work together to bounce ideas off of each other. That implements collaborative work in the classroom!
    Your elaborate is my absolute favorite part of this blog. I really like how you are having the students creating their own virus, this is so creative! Also, having them pitch their idea is a perfect addition to this lesson.
    Great blog!

    • Thanks Katie!
      One thing that comes to mind with doing a demo could be letting students all have test tubes of water and have one student start with some sort of other chemical (maybe an acid or base) but still clear and they would all walk around and exchange their water with each other. This could show how easy it is to contaminate other people with a disease. At the end you could use an indicator to show which students now have this virus. It would require more planning, but could be impactful about the spread of disease. Thanks again! I honestly think this is something I would do with a future class.

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