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					Martian Plants
Topic Genetic Engineering Key Question (s) What traits are needed for plants to survive in space? Grade Level 6-8 Module Correlation Growing Space, Volume 3 (p. 6-7) Vocabulary Gene DNA Chromosome Genetic Engineering Reporter Genes Lesson Summary Using the article on Arabidopsis, students will determine why it is a good model organism for space research. Through the use of an analogy they will be introduced to the concept of genetic engineering and will create plants suitable for space. Learning Goals Students will: 1. identify the concept of a model organism, 2. define genetic engineering, 3. construct a plant with space survival traits Science Competencies/Standards NSES Content Standard C REPRODUCTION AND HEREDITY  Heredity Information is contained in genes, located in the chromosomes of each cell. Each gene carries a single unit of information. An inherited trait of an individual can be determined by one or by many genes, and a single gene can influence more than one trait. A human cell contains many thousands of different genes.  The characteristics of an organism can be described in terms of a combination of traits. Some traits are inherited and others result from interactions with the environment. Materials Needed

One Copy per Student of Plant Creation-Page D Art supplies-markers, colored pencils Background Information A gene is a sequence of DNA. Genes are bits of DNA that control the traits of all living things. DNA is a blueprint for the traits in all living things. Thousands of genes make up chromosomes. Genetic engineering, a type of biotechnology, is a process in which the genetic material (DNA) is taken from one organism and inserted into the cells of another organism. Genetic engineering can also be a rearrangement of the location of genes. The new “altered” organism then makes new substances or performs new functions based on its new DNA. For example, genetic engineering saved the Hawaiian production of papaya. Scientists genetically engineered the papaya seeds to resist a virus that was destroying the crop. Arabidopsis is a small flowering plant that is related to the mustard plant. The plant has had its entire genetic make up mapped. Thus, scientists know a lot about how it works. This makes it easy for them to change the genetics in the plant to make it possible to grow in space. Scientists have inserted genes from an incandescent jellyfish into the plant. These are called “reporter genes” as they basically report on what is going wrong in the plant. When the plant is stressed in some way, the genes will glow. Scientists are looking for environmental stressors such as drought, disease, or unfavorable temperatures. These reporter genes will react to such environmental problems. For example, one version will glow green if it detects an excess of heavy metals in the Martian soil; another will turn blue in the presence of peroxides. Procedure 1. As a class, read Plants in Space and All about Arabidopsis from the SAITC module. Review with students the concepts taught in lesson one about genes and traits. Remind them that the average human has over 100,000 different genes. Brainstorm ideas about why Arabidopsis is a good model organism for space experimentation. [small, low number of genes, only takes 60 days to harvest seeds] 2. The concept of genetic engineering is introduced in these articles. The splicing of the “reporter genes” into the Arabidopsis plant is an example of genetic engineering. As a class, develop a definition of genetic engineering. Use the information provided in “Background Information” to help you develop a good definition. You can also use the glossary located in the back of the Growing Space module. 3. Explain the process of genetic engineering using this analogy. “Let’s say you and your brother are making a video to send into a reality television show for students. You need to show that you are an adventurous, creative, and fun pair. Your mom films the two of you for a week. She has footage of your soccer game, dance lesson, a friend’s birthday party, and you at home. You’d like to make a three minute video showing you and your brother.

Unfortunately, you have over seven hours of video. How will you be able to create a three minute video of your most exciting moments when you have seven hours of video? Well, you can cut and splice… In the same way, scientists are cutting and splicing to create plants that will teach them what works and what doesn’t work on Mars. 4. Ask students to brainstorm a list of traits a plant would need to make it useful for space travel. Possible answers might include: a. Small in size (requires little growing area) b. Requires little air-will take need to remove some carbon dioxide out of the air c. Requires little water (drought tolerant) d. Will grow nutrient rich food for human consumption e. Can handle cold temperatures 5. Using the traits listed above, have students (in a group) create their own unique space plant. Using Arabidopsis as the starting plant, students can “genetically engineer” the plant in anyway. This is a time to be creative. To break down the creation of their new “space plant” students will focus on three main part of a plant (roots, stems/leaves, flowers). o For example: Space plants would be better if they could anchor themselves into the Martian soil. Thus, the roots may have hooks of some type. The stems should be very hearty. It would be best if the plants wouldn’t freeze in cold temperatures. The plant may create a large amount of food (for space inhabitants) in the flower. 6. Once students have a plan and have brainstormed the parts of their plant, have them begin creating a picture of the plant on Space Plant-Page D. They need to create their plant breaking it up into the three separate parts (roots, stems/leaves, flowers). They also need to create a name for their creation and place it on the line at the top of the page. 7. Let your students’ imaginations run free! Tell them anything is possible! This activity can be done alone, with a pair or a group. 8. As a class, have students individually share what they have created. Make sure they share their answers to the question at that end of their project. Discuss as a class the feasibility of growing plants in space. 9. Have students imagine that they are the plant they’ve created. Using the name they’ve given their plant, have them imagine they are living on Mars. Have them write a well written story describing their environment. They need to include details about where they live, what traits they have that enable them to live on Mars, and what changes could be made to help them be better adapted to the Martian environment. Plant Story-Page E is provided for final drafts.

Teacher Resources NASA Website-Farming for the Future This article would serve as a great introduction as to why scientists are trying to grow plants in space. NASA Website-Jellyplants on Mars This article explains Arabidopsis plants and how they may be used on Mars. NASA Website-Prozac for Plants This article describes ways scientists are working to relieve stress for plants in space. UF/IFAS News Release This article explains more about Arabidopsis. University of Nebraska: (Click on the animations link to see a short movie on genetic engineering) Kansas State University’s Genetics’ Education Network Yeast Experiments

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