1. Jessica Allen
  2. Academic Coordinator
  4. University of California San Francisco
  1. Rebecca Smith
  2. Co-Director
  4. University of California San Francisco

Cellular Construction Workshop

NSF Awards: 1548297

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

Engineering readily lends itself to lessons centered on tinkering and problem based learning. However, incorporating engineering practices into the biology classroom can be challenging.

We have developed a workshop to teach biology using the backdrop of cellular engineering to inspire students to be biological tinkerers. Cellular engineering is a discipline that strives to re-engineer cells to solve complex problems to benefit humankind.

Teacher-student teams co-learned about the principles of cellular engineering by observing the behavior of biological specimens and designing robots that mimicked that behavior. This extended analogy of a cell as a robot highlighted the complexity of cells, the structure/function relationship within cell biology, and the potential to reprogram cells (via genetic engineering) to create new organisms to solve real world problems.

Our teacher/student co-learning model allowed gave teachers time to learn cellular engineering content while also observing how students engaged and struggled with biology and engineering activities. After the workshop, several teacher participants adopted the workshop lessons and materials to bring cellular engineering into their own classrooms.

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