The Peanut Solution: Lesson Plan

Learn about biotechnology, and discover how a new biotechnology technique developed by North Carolina scientists can be used to remove the allergy-causing proteins in peanuts.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • NCES.8.L.2.1 — Summarize aspects of biotechnology.

Learning Outcomes

Time Allotment Needed: 5 days (block schedule)

  • Students will discuss how many allergies, such as allergies to peanuts, pose a serious health problem. 
  • Students will summarize aspects of biotechnology, including ethical issues and implications for agriculture.
  • Students will describe and explain the biotechnology technique being used to remove the allergens from peanuts.

Essential Questions

  1. What are some examples of allergens and allergic reactions?
  2. What is biotechnology, and how is it used? 
  3. How can biotechnology be used to remove the allergens from peanuts? 
  4. How does the technology developed in North Carolina compare with other biotechnologies for making non-allergenic peanuts?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Allergen 
  • Anaphylaxis 
  • Biotechnology
  • Enzyme 
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Immune system 
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Protein


Draw a three-column chart on the board. Entitle the chart "Allergies," and label the columns "Allergens," "Allergic Responses," and "Remedies." Invite the class to brainstorm with you the information that they already know about allergies, and to organize the information in the chart. Explain that an allergen is something that causes an allergic response. Examples include plants such as ragweed, cats and other pets, penicillin and other drugs, and foods such as peanuts. Allergic responses often include sneezing, a runny nose and skin rashes, as well as more serious, even life-threatening responses. Remedies may include drugs to treat the allergic responses, as well as efforts to avoid the allergens. The class may revisit the chart as they research and learn more about the formal definition of an allergy, different types of allergies and allergic responses, and new treatments.


Students will gather information about allergies and allergic reactions, including reactions to peanuts and other foods. Students should add information to their Allergies chart to document their research, citing the website at which they obtained the information.

Resources: — Read a variety of articles on the definition of allergies, allergies to peanuts and other foods, and serious allergic reactions.

Kids With Food Allergies: What is Anaphylaxis? — Read this article on anaphylaxis, which is a type of serious allergic reaction. Then search the website for articles on peanut allergies. — Find allergy facts, tests, treatments and types here.


Students will view the NC Science Now video The Peanut Solution. After viewing the video, students should answer the following questions. They can then discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.

  1. Why is an allergy to peanuts a serious problem for many people? 
  2. What component of peanuts causes an allergic response? 
  3. What biotechnology solution to the problem of peanut allergies has been developed by North Carolina scientists? 
  4. Evaluate the solution that the scientists developed. How does it compare with other solutions or technologies that have been proposed? 
  5. How do the scientists plan to use their new technology for treating peanuts? 



Students will research examples of biotechnology, the benefits that biotechnology provides, and the complaints and controversy that often accompany biotechnology. Work with students so that they research a variety of examples, which may include genetically-modified farm crops, artificial manufacturing of insulin and other pharmaceuticals, techniques for treating genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and genetic screening and testing for prospective parents. Students should prepare and deliver an oral report to share the information they learned.


Students will collaborate to generate a class report on "The Peanut Solution." Divide the class into small groups. Each group will prepare a segment of the report, focusing on one of these topics: 

  • Allergies and Allergens: Define the terms allergy and allergen, and provide examples. Explain why allergies are a significant and serious health threat. 
  • Peanut Allergies: Discuss the danger of peanut allergies and the challenge of avoiding peanuts in a modern diet. 
  • A Technology Solution: Discuss the solution to peanut allergies developed by North Carolina scientists. Explain how and why it works. 
  • Ideas for the Future: Discuss scientists' proposals for new biotechnology or applying existing biotechnology, as well as the implications for the future.

Work with all groups to ensure that all students participate. Encourage students to cite the sources of the information or graphics that they include in their report. Combine the individual segments, either in print or electronic formats, to generate the class report.

Evaluation Rubric