Resources for Teachers

Nobel Conference 50

Several Minnesota Master Teachers gathered together in the summer prior to this conference to research the life and work of the presenters at the 2015 Nobel Conference. The group developed several pieces of classroom ready curriculum that focus on the topics of the conference. There are several different types of materials including basic biographies, readings, simulations, and lab activities. The materials are all described concisely in the information below.

The development of this material happens annually as a part of the Nobel Curriculum Development Program at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. It is presented here on the web in an editable format. We encourage teachers to download these materials and use them as they are…and/or adapt them to best fit their classroom and learner needs.

Eric Koser and Robert Shoemaker
Co-Directors
Nobel Curriculum Development Program
Gustavus Adolphus College


Rock Pocket Mouse Evolution
Dr. Sean B. Carroll

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Concepts and Keywords

Evolution, variation, natural selection, switches, evolutionary developmental biology, evo-devo, mutation, adaptation, population

Type of Activity

Pre-Conference/Video Clip, Activity

Duration

50 minute period

Description

Students watch a video clip and then engage in discussion about the genetic mutations responsible for changes in this species. Students then have a jigsaw discussion and journal on several questions.

Document Overview

This lesson is designed to provide an overview of natural selection and adaptation in a population as well as introduce the topic of evolutionary developmental biology, “evo-devo”. It can be used to prepare students for Sean B. Carroll’s talk, and/or as an introduction to a Population Genetics Unit. This lesson contains copyrighted material, and material adapted and compiled from resources available from HHMI Biointeractive. One additional pdf is included with this activity.


Biography and History - A Project with Connections!
Dr. Steven Chu

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Concepts and Keywords

Energy, Timeline, Change over time, Networking, Stanford, Bell Labs, Curiosity, Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, Dr. Steven Chu

Type of Activity

Small group research and presentation followed by large group sharing and discussion.

Duration

Two class periods:

  • Day 1 - Conduct research and develop an understanding of a particular time period.
  • Day 2 - Present the timeline by group while students build a mapping of the connections.

Description

Small Group Jigsaw Activity: Students research a specific time frame within Chu’s lifetime, career, and interactions/influences that propelled him into the next phase of his career. Students then share their group’s focus with the whole class and the class develops a broad picture/web of Chu’s life.

Document Overview

This is an activity designed to help a class build a background in the life’s work of Dr. Steven Chu. It is built as a jigsaw-style activity with a series of time periods to be explored and shared with emphasis on the connections between each of these phases of Dr. Chu’s life and work.


Ultimatum Game
Jennifer L. West, Patricia Smith Churchland, and António Damásio

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Concepts and Keywords

Neurotransmitters, Decision-Making, Serotonin, Ultimatum Game

Type of Activity

Investigation and follow up readings.

Duration

60-90 minutes; probably 2 class periods, one for data collection and one for analysis

Description

An investigation that uses the Ultimatum game to learn about decision making and how neurotransmitter levels may be a factor in affecting a person’s decisions.

Document Overview

This lesson plan provides an investigation that correlates to the Medicine/Genetics strand content that will be presented at the Nobel Conference. Further, it can be used as an activity/investigation in the areas of Bioethics, Neurobiology, or Anatomy and Physiology.


Observing Nervous Responses
António Damásio

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Concepts and Keywords

Nervous system, reflex, reaction, homeostasis, evolutionary advantage

Type of Activity

Lab activity

Duration

1 or 2 class periods

Description

Students experience various human nervous reactions and reflexes while collecting data.

Document Overview

Through a station-based lab activity, students will get a better understanding of reaction versus reflex. They will subject their body to several tests to collect and analyze data about their personal responses. The ideas of homeostasis and evolutionary advantage are highlighted. This could be an introduction to the nervous system, specifically the brain.


Speaker Biography: W. Gary Ernst
W. Gary Ernst

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Concepts and Keywords

Ernst Biography and Overview

Type of Activity

A short reading with web links to provide an overview of this speaker.

Duration

One class period and/or as a homework assignment.

Description

In 2010, Ernst was awarded the GSA (Geological Society of America) International Section Distinguished Career Award. This is an excerpt from his introduction for the award, by Yildirim Dilek and Ernst’s rebuttal to the award.


The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: We're Made Out of Ancient Sunlight
Dr. Harry Gray

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Concepts and Keywords

Ancient sunlight, energy, trees, animals.

Type of Activity

This is an excerpt from this book that can be read in class or as homework for discussion.

Duration

One class period or one or more days of homework.

Description

An article to read.

Document Overview

The author investigates how fundamentally all that is on Earth is the result of energy from the Sun.


Here Comes the Sun: Water Hydrolysis and it’s Connection to Solar Energy
Dr. Harry Gray

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Concepts and Keywords

Hydrolysis, Electrolysis, Water Splitting, Solar Energy, Chemical Energy, Electrolyte, Photosynthesis, Energy

Type of Activity

Inquiry Lab

Duration

50 minute class for Inquiry Lab, Optional 2nd day: Discuss creating technology to support renewable resources. This lab will connect collection of hydrogen using solar power to create chemical energy.

Description

A simple lab to hydrolize water in a plastic bottle with a 9 volt battery

Document Overview

This is an overview of electrolysis and a guide for students to conduct an investigation.


Electron Transport in Solar & Fuel Cells
Dr. Harry Gray

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Concepts and Keywords

Electron Transport, Solar Cells, Fuel Cells, Energy

Type of Activity

A presentation to provide an overview of the role of electrons in fuel cells and solar cells.

Duration

20 minutes

Description

Students will make connections between the electron and the engineered systems that use electron transport to transfer energy.

Document Overview

A ten slide presentation.


Sequencing DNA Activity
Savante Pääbo

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Concepts and Keywords

This activity develops a very basic understanding of DNA sequencing methodology allowing students to follow how Pääbo obtained his data.

Type of Activity

Students use a game to understand DNA sequences, then examine conserved sequences across species. Finally students trace DNA evidence of common ancestry by examining data from DNA sequences.

Duration

Part 1: 20 mins, Part 2: 10 mins, Part 3: 85 mins

Description

Students will be able to describe what happens to DNA sequences over millions of years as species diverge to differentiate conserved sequences from divergent ones and make the connection to common traits across species to use their ability of comparing patterns to detect similar patterns in chromosome banding across species.

Document Overview

This activity includes an overview document followed by 10 pdf and presentation files to use with students.


Laetoli Trackway Puzzle
Savante Pääbo

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Concepts and Keywords

Geologic patterns, nature of science, evolutionary change, evidence in the present can reveal events of the past.

Type of Activity

Dry lab

Duration

1-2 Class Periods

Description

Footprint diagrams were made from the trackway of Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy's" species) at the Laetoli site in East Africa. They are topographic in nature, showing details of depth and superposition. Students are asked a series of probing questions, some requiring direct observation, others expecting inferences and analysis. This is an excellent example of an historical problem-solving exercise, using clues to derive a likely picture of a past event, very much like crime scene scientists must do. It's also open-ended, where students try to reach a "best explanation" based on the data and reasonable interpretations, with no "correct answer" available.

Document Overview

Using the Laetoli Footprints, students will explore how scientists use current patterns to understand the past. Students will answer the questions: what do the footprints tell us? How do scientists find that out? Students will measure and correlate their foot lengths and body heights and use that data to estimate the height of the Laetoli hominid.


Foot Steps in Time
Savante Pääbo

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Concepts and Keywords

The Nature of Science, correlation between foot size and height, using the fossil record as a means to collect data

Type of Activity

Dry lab

Duration

Several class periods

Description

Students will use the Laetoli fossil record to make observations, then collect data to predict size of ancient human ancestors.

Document Overview

The 3.6 million year old tracks of an early hominin in Laetoli provide a tantalizing opportunity to explore how scientists use patterns of the present to understand the past. What do these footprints tell us? How can we find out? Students measure and correlate their foot lengths and body heights, then use that data to estimate the height of the Laetoli


Building Cladograms and A Comparative DNA Analysis
Savante Pääbo

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Concepts and Keywords

Cladogram, Evolution, Gene Sequences, Mutations, Relationships, Super Computer

Type of Activity

This is a hands-on “dry” lab that will have the students analyzing a set of data and attempting to make an evolutionary relationship among the organisms by building a series of cladograms. They will learn and practice making a cladogram first, and then utilize this new found skill later in the lab.

Duration

This is a lengthy activity set that might need as many as 3 to 4 days to complete based on a 45-55 minute class period.

Description

Students develop an understanding of Cladograms and then proceed to build one.

Document Overview

This is a series of activities of help students understand the nature of evolutionary relationships in terms of morphological and genetic similarities and differences. The students will first be introduced on what is, and how to, build a cladogram. This practice activity will then prepare them for the more complex DNA analysis of a large group of mammals. In the end, the students will attempt to build a cladogram on the relationships of the mammals.

In the secondary and more complex mammal analysis, the students will replicate the logical processes that Darwin employed during his scientific career. They will then continue to focus their analysis by utilizing the techniques of the Human Genome Project from the late 20th by sequencing a specifically shared mammalian gene common to all the organisms in the lab.

Lastly, the students will be directed to the Biological Super Computer Center at San Diego State University to have the computer build the cladogram, based on the gene sequences of the various organisms. Ironically, the students will find that their first attempts at building evolutionary relationships from their intuitive (Darwinian) perspective and pretty close to the more sophisticated Super Computer generated analysis.


Speaker Biography: Savante Pääbo
Savante Pääbo

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Concepts and Keywords

Pääbo Biography and Overview

Type of Activity

A set of web links to review the basics of this speaker.

Duration

One class period and/or as a homework assignment.

Description

Svante Pääbo's research on the DNA of human and nonhuman primates has exposed the key genetic changes that transformed our grunting ape-like ancestors into the charming latte-sipping humans we are today.


Modeling Cell Labeling to Identify Cell Types
Jennifer West

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Concepts and Keywords

Macromolecule functions, selective cell labeling, targeted drug therapy, inquiry

Type of Activity

Lab

Duration

One 50-minute class period

Description

In this investigation, students will model cell specific labeling to identify cancerous cells by testing several solutions with reagents that detect the presence of macromolecules.

Document Overview

Cancer researchers are using nanomolecules to specifically identify and treat cancer cells in mice. The use of nanomolecules allows for the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to only nanomolecule-labeled tumors, in effect, eliminating the standard chemotherapy side effects. As an analogy to this process, in a lab setting, students investigate unknown solutions and test for the presence of lipids, proteins, and simple and/or complex carbohydrates. Students will learn which reagents positively identify each type of macromolecule, and then use this information to help identify macromolecules present in an unknown solution. This will be analogous to what the cancer researchers look for among cells of the body, to see how selective cell labeling can isolate cells of interest in a commingled population of different cell types.


Transforming Organ Transplantation
Jennifer West

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Concepts and Keywords

Organ Transplantation, Tissue matching, Stem cells, 3D printing, Biomimetic hydrogels, Bioengineering

Type of Activity

Pre-conference video research and jigsaw activity to prepare students for Jennifer West’s presentation.

Duration

Two 50-minute class periods, with optional summary homework assignment.

Description

This activity is a jigsaw to engage students in the evolution of organ transplantation and the impact of technology upon it.

Document Overview

This activity is designed to give students a background on how the process of organ transplantation has changed and how new technologies will impact the transplantation process. This will correlate with Jennifer West’s presentation at the Nobel Conference.


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