Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology: Lesson Plan

Learn about the techniques and outcomes of genetic technology, and discover how North Carolina scientists are using genetic technology to turn soybeans into vaccines, and to strengthen silkworm silk using spider DNA.

UNC-TV Media

Video: Spider Silk
             Just a Spoonful of Soybeans

Reporter's Blog:  Spiders' Webs Help them do More than just Catch Prey
                               Miracle Crop 

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • NCES.8.L.2.1 — Summarize aspects of biotechnology. 
  • NCES.Bio.3.3.2 — Summarize how transgenic organisms are engineered to benefit society.

Learning Outcomes

Time Allotment Needed: 5 days (block schedule)

  • Students will understand how biotechnology is used to affect living organisms. 
  • Students will summarize how a transgenic organism is engineered to benefit society.

Essential Questions

  1. What is biotechnology? 
  2. What genetic information is used in biotechnology? 
  3. How does a specific example of transgenic engineering work?


Students will watch Genetic Engineering and Working with DNA for a basic introduction to the powers of genetic engineering. 


Students will work independently to gather information about DNA and genetic engineering, as well as the controversy over genetic engineering. Students should take notes to document their research, citing the website at which they obtained the information. Find some possible sources below.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) — Find out how a long complex molecule called DNA controls all of the physical traits of an organism.

What is Genetic Engineering? — Discover how scientists use genetic engineering to change the genetic traits of an organism.

Tobacco Plant Virus May Yield HIV Drug — 

Plants Can Be Factories —

Genetically Modified Organgism — 

Basic Genetics — 

Biotech Startups Tap Spider Genes in Quest to Spin Silk Gold — Xconomy


Students will view the NC Science Now video Just a Spoonful of Soybeans. After viewing the videos, students should answer the following questions. They can then discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.

  1. Why are soybeans sometimes called "The Miracle Crop?" 
  2. The genetically modified soybean plants shown in the video looked just like ordinary soybean plants. What makes them different? 
  3. How do the scientists expect to use soybeans to deliver vaccines? 
  4. Scientists once tried to use potatoes to make vaccines. Why do the scientists think that using soybeans will be more successful?


Students will watch the NC Science Now video Spider Silk to explore the way in which a North Carolina company is using transgenic engineering to change the type of silk a silkworm produces. They can then discuss the following questions. 

Discussion questions: 

  1. What does “agricultural alchemy” refer to in the video? 
  2. Describe is the transgenic engineering that is discussed in the video. 
  3. How are engineers producing silkworms that contain two copies of the spider gene? 
  4. What does “Kevlar” refer to in the video? 
  5. Why does the video compare Kevlar to a glass window, and spider silk to a trampoline? 
  6. Describe two ways in which spider silk can benefit society.


Students will summarize the work they completed in the Explore section of this lesson in a PowerPoint presentation with at least eight slides. The presentation should include:

  • An explanation of biotechnology and how it works 
  • An explanation of genetic engineering and how it works 
  • A description of DNA and its role in all living things 
  • A description of the ways in which soybeans and silkworms are being changed to benefit society