Focused ag biotech learning with NGSS-designed lessons

A new Nebraska Corn Board-sponsored workshop gave teachers a first-hand experience with ag biotech activities. Participants in the Ag Biotech workshop had the opportunity to make, wash, and test renewable diesel, and to perform a green fluorescent protein chromatography and a DNA extraction lab.

Workshops and activities such as these help show that ag is STEM, with many applications. Creating renewable diesel is good for the environment and derived entirely from sustainable sources. Part of the supply kit that teachers took home includes corn oil, so teachers help their students explore these labs.

Designed for NGSS, the biotechnology unit introduced the focus question, What are GMOs and why are we afraid of them? Selecting for natural traits has been done for centuries; today’s genetic engineering techniques allow the process to be done more quickly and precisely. Teachers investigated the common materials to create their own standard operating procedure for DNA extraction and then extracted and purified proteins with BioRad’s GFP purification kit.

Researcher Zack Bateson from the National Ag Genotyping Center talked to the group about his career path and current work, using biotechnology to detect plant pathogens.