This unit was created by Rebecca Wheeler, Sandwich High School, for a Biology Grade 10 class through her 2023 Teacher-in-Residence at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA.
Mice, frogs, and fruit flies may come to my mind when picturing model organisms. But what about axolotls, rotifers, and purple sea urchins? These creatures and others, no matter how familiar or unusual, have contributed to our understanding of our own complex physiological processes. This unit was designed to introduce Biology students to model organisms, which are not often discussed in the high school classroom. It is my opinion that this concept should be given greater attention since these creatures are the foundation of biomedical research that can lead to great improvements in human health. My curriculum was inspired by a visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), namely its Marine Resource Center. The MBL utilizes a variety of model organism species to investigate such topics as tissue regeneration and aging.
In this unit, students will first explore the general role of model organisms in scientific research. They will then investigate specific model organisms found at the MBL. Next they will analyze real experiments and studies that involve model organisms. Finally, the students will develop and carry out their own experiments- their test subject being the simple yet versatile model organism of yeast. At the conclusion of this unit, my hope is that students have gained an appreciation for both the potential of model organisms and the scientific method.