A Student-Centered Guide to Bioengineering

Overview & Concepts

Online activities, videos, and hands-on labs allow students to visualize and practice bioengineering techniques and concepts in this week-long unit.  Students will learn about DNA extraction, restriction enzymes, gel electrophoresis, PCR, and DNA sequencing by answering a series of questions based on videos, diagrams, and prior knowledge. Each major concept will be supplemented with either an online learning activity or a hands-on lab completed in class. This activity is designed to give the students all the information they need about these specific topics without teacher lecture notes.  

Grade Level: 

Concepts Covered: 

  • DNA extractions
  • restriction enzymes
  • gel electrophoresis
  • DNA fingerprinting
  • PCR
  • DNA sequencing

Prior Knowledge Required: 

  • cell structure 
  • composition of cellular and nuclear membrane
  • difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  • structure and function of DNA
  • DNA replication
  • use of BLAST (can also be taught as the students complete this activity)
  • inhertiance patterns


Activity Notes

Days to Teach: 

About a week (depending on how much time is spent in lab and how much is assigned for homework)


  • computer for BLAST DNA fingerprinting activity, and videos
  • materials for DNA extraction (see attached lab)
  • materials for gel electrophoresis (agarose, dyes, power supply, electrophoresis chambers, TBE buffer, micropipettes)
  • materials for PCR (see attached lab)

Teaching Tips / Activity Overview: 

  1. Introduce the activity and hand out the student worksheet, A Guide to Bioengineering.
  2. Guide students as they complete the sections in order. In some cases students will work independently or in small groups, while at other times the whole class will participate in a lab. The activity sequence is:
  • Day 1: DNA Extraction questions and lab
    • Homework: Complete questions about DNA fingerprinting (prior to lab)
  • Day 2: DNA Fingerprinting Activity
    • Homework: Complete questions about Restriction Enzymes and Gel Electrophoresis
  • Day 3 and Part of Day 4: PCR
    • Homework: Complete questions about PCR
  • Day 4 and Day 5: Using BLAST to compare sequences

Please note the following:

  • This lab is designed for an accelerated biology class, but can be adapted for an academic level class.  
  • The labs are not neccessary to complete. If lab supplies can not be obtained, students can simply use the online activities, diagrams, and videos to get the information they need.  The labs are added to help students visualize what is happening.  
  • There are two different DNA extraction labs attached.  One lab is straight-forward, and students simply extract DNA from different living tissues using a step-by-step procedure.  The other lab attached asks students to design a DNA extraction protocol and explain what results they may get based on their understanding of DNA extractions.  
  • Use the DNA Fingerprinting Pictures with the Self-Guided Notes document.
  • Assign the questions for homework so there is more time in class to complete the labs.  
  • I have not attached an offical gel electrophoresis lab.  Any lab can be done here with dyes or a DNA crime solving kit.  
  • I have not attached an offical PCR lab.  I have attached, however, a protocol that works well when trying to amplify the 16S-23S intergenic region in bacteria.  


A test on content knowledge will be given on this material at the end of the unit.  Other assessments include class discussion of material learned, and analysis of lab results.  


  • Information on cloning using plasmids can be added (this could be added to the restriction enzyme section).
  • A transformation lab could be completed.
  • Cloning of animals and plants could be added.
  • Information on transgenic organisms could be added.


Additional Information: 

This activity could be completed with an AP Biology class.  Labs that supplement this activity could be turned into inquiry labs and more information can be added to cover all topics that need to be covered in bioengineering.  The DNA fingerprinting online activity would be removed and replaced with a lab.  

Academic Standards
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