Team:MiamiU OH/Education

iGEM 2021 | Miami University


Our educational efforts focused on two main themes. First, we wanted to address that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a controversial topic, addressing both valid concerns about abuse of the technology while correcting fear driven by misinformation. Therefore, our goal was to contribute to the creation of accurate GMO information resources, and to introduce that content in a manner that builds trust between the public and the scientific community. We aimed to empower our community to be confident in their knowledge and better approach future interactions with potentially inaccurate information. We did this by creating materials for two age groups: older adults and elementary school aged children.

Second, we wanted to produce accessible education on photosynthesis that extends beyond the oversimplified reactions that are commonly taught. From childhood to even some introductory higher education courses, photosynthesis is often simplified to the “light and dark reactions.” This description has become completely outdated, and even incorrect, with current knowledge. Inaccurate, oversimplification of photosynthesis is no ground to begin public– and potential future scientists’– view of the basis of all biological energy. The limits of photosynthesis are becoming a large part of the research into increasing crop yield, and the first step of building interest and passion for that research is understanding photosynthesis reactions. Instilling accurate scientific information into the younger generation’s education is also key for their ability to address the rising concern of food insecurity in the future.


Older Adult Care Home

Avery Imes presenting at the Knolls.Avery Imes presenting at the Knolls Our presentation’s audience was the residents of the Knolls of Oxford in Oxford, OH. The residents of the Knolls have varying levels of mobility, so we decided to use a presentation (downloadable below) to convey our information; a presentation is easily adaptable to different accessibility aids. The presentation shared information about what GMOs are, how they are made, and notable examples of GMO technology. Before the presentation began, we passed out notecards to residents for the residents to write down any questions. If a resident was not comfortable asking a question, or if they had a question after the presentation was over, they could write their question on the card. Residents were also free to ask any questions during the presentation. We then collected all notecards and used them to guide the creation of a pamphlet. The pamphlet goes over what we discussed in our presentation, some good sources for further understanding, and answers their common questions. After its creation, the pamphlet was delivered to the Knolls to be distributed to the residents. It also serves a tangible resource that they can refer back to and share with others.

Our audience members had a variety of backgrounds, some from scientific fields and some not. By having an interdisciplinary discussion, we were able to gain insight on how older generations think about GMOs from a variety of perspectives. Residents built upon each other’s ideas and we were able to have a collaborative and insightful conversation. To read further about this discussion, see our Human Practices page.

Educational Video

We reached out to many educators who were excited to share and discuss GMOs with their classes. Knowing that there were still many COVID-19 related restrictions in place for in-person events, we opted to create an interactive video on the creation of GMOs.

We gave our video to the head of our local school district’s Science department as well as to our university’s natural history museum. Julie Robinson, Director of Environmental Education at Miami’s Hefner Museum of Natural History wrote back to us after reviewing our video. She was grateful for the resource and she emphasized the importance of flexible online educational opportunities:

“Virtual learning offers an instructional environment that is accessible and flexible for students and teachers. While virtual education is continually changing in its content and context, it is essential that we recognize its support to the traditional classroom setting, especially to the STEM related fields of study. By providing factual, rigorous, and engaging science e-learning experiences beyond the traditional school day or classroom, educators and students gain access to the world through discovery and synthesis. Such experiences foster a knowledge of the value of science fields through project-based initiatives and increased opportunities to exercise applicable skills not readily available in the conventional setting.”

You can checkout that video here below or by visiting the following link: Education video

Even though we chose to pursue an online and asynchronous format, we still made our video interactive. In order to explain how a GMO is made, we created a paper cutting activity (downloadable below) to demonstrate how a gene is inserted into plasmids. The educators were provided with a printable version of the activity while the video has step by step instructions to facilitate the activity.

Students would be given a colored paper circle to represent a plasmid. They would then be able to cut part of the circle out to symbolize the nick in DNA required to insert new DNA. Then, using another color they would need to cut a shape to fill the created gap. This represents taking DNA from one organism and putting it into the DNA of another, creating a simplified version of a genetically modified organism! By creating their own genetically modified organism the students gain a hands-on learning experience. This activity allows children to go through the process of creating a GMO themselves at the most basic level, introducing them to how DNA is actually taken from one organism and put into the genome of another. From this starting point, students can expand their knowledge on GMO creation into more complex levels as their science education progresses.

Since we were distributing these materials to educators, we ensured that we took into consideration the education standards of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). For ODE, the video most clearly fulfills Designing technological/engineering solutions using scientific concepts - Technology and Engineering. The focused audience is Grades 4-6. For NGSS, the video particularly addresses Appendix F of “Science and Engineering Practices” by providing actual interactive activities by which students can construct explanations of the problem, and design solutions for said problem.

Photosynthesis: Frontiers Article

We also wrote an article to communicate the more complex, but highly applicable recent discoveries involving the limitations of photosynthesis. Specifically, we summarized the findings of an article published by our primary investigator, Dr. Xin Wang, and his laboratory on the relationship between photosynthesis and its other metabolisms as it transitions from dark to light. This article was targeted at children aged 8-12 and was sent for review in the journal Frontiers for Young Minds(1). This open access journal has experienced scientists write about new research in a format accessible to young readers. Articles go through a peer review editorial process, specifically with review from a Science Mentor and a young student pair. Our article titled “How does Photosynthesis Wake Up?” is currently submitted for review and expected to be published within the next few months.



1. Frontiers for Young Minds: Science for kids, edited by kids. Frontiers. (

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