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How the Fur Flies

An Introduction to Biotechnology



This comprehensive inquiry explores the world of the genetics and pharmaceutical biotechnology through a simulation of a 'real world' veterinary health issue.

The resource centers around the diagnosis and treatment of a cat with several health issues that has been brought to an animal clinic. Students will test, diagnose, and make treatment recommendations for the cat by applying their knowledge of genetics and the medical uses of chromosomal mutation & genetic modifications.  The lessons incorporate principles of heredity, DNA, dominant and recessive traits, Mendel’s Laws, and Punnett Squares. Students must also consider the moral and ethical issues surrounding biotechnology and human health.

The resource consists of 18 lesson plans augmented with Power Point and video presentations.

Lesson One: Real Cats Wear Pink (2 x 60 min)

Students read about genetically modified cats and  simulate the genetic modification of a desired trait.

Lesson Two: Cats and You : DNA Doubles? (2 x 60 min)

Students discover the history of the mapping of the human and feline genomes and compare the chromosomal DNA of each one.

Lesson Three: Diagnose Sparky (2 x 60min)

The simulation begins with Sparky the Cat being brought to an animal clinic. Students complete a triage and create a case folder.

Lesson Four: Analyzing Sparky (1 x 45 min)

Students analyze Sparky’s blood work results and discuss a  diagnosis

Lesson Five: Urine Jeopardy ( 1 x 60min)

Students administer a urine test. analyze the results and discuss diabetes mellitus

Lesson Six:  Another Cat Needs Exfoliation (2 x60 min)

Students treat feline acne in a pregnant cat and perform a hands-on activity simulating a urine test.

Lesson Seven: Mapping the Males (1x 60min)

Using videos and biological models describing how to interpret gel electrophoresis, students determine the potential father of Sparky’s kittens.

Lesson Eight:  Gelin’: Gel Electrophoresis (1x 60min)

Students simulate gel electrophoresis by conducting a simple chromatography experiment.

Lesson Nine: Who’s Your Daddy? : (1 x60 min)

Students examine DNA fingerprints to determine the father of Sparky's kittens.

Lesson Ten: Lucky Brands Genes: Genetic Traits (1x 60min)

After reviewing genetic terminology students examine their own single gene traits.

Lesson Eleven: Punnet Squares Possibilities (2 x 60min)

Students use parent genotypes to determine the phenotypes of the kittens and calculate their risk of  having polycystic kidney disease and neonatal isoerthrolysis.

Lesson Twelve: Lucky Brand Genes: Chromosome Cookies (2 x 60min)

Students make cookies to model the various ways that chromosomes can be mutated- insertion mutation, deletion mutation, translocation mutation, and duplication mutation. They relate this exercise to the current and future uses of medical biotechnology.

Lesson Thirteen: Kitten Creation ( 2 x 60 minutes)

Students use dominant and recessive traits to determine the physical traits of their kittens. They then use craft supplies to build stuffed models of the cats incorporating those same physical traits.

Lesson Fourteen: Adaptation Sensation (2 x 60min)

Students discover how organisms are modified (natural selection, crossbreeding/hybrids, genetic modification) and create metaphors for cat and human modifications.

Lesson Fifteen: Crossing Hairs (1x60min)

Students consider desired traits of cats to crossbreed for a new desired trait. They play a game in which they take on the role of a cat breeder and are asked to produce offspring with certain traits. Cat profiles and pictures are included.

Lesson Sixteen: Great Expectations Through Modifications (3 x60min)

Students study the role of recombinant DNA in the production of insulin. They then construct a poster to explain this process.

Lesson Seventeen: What is Biotechnology? (1x60min)

Students are introduced to the term biotechnology and complete a 'biotechnology timeline' activity. They then discuss what developments the future may hold.

Lesson Eighteen: Medical Ethics ( 2 x 60min)

Students complete Sparky’s Medical Expenditure Log and consider the genetic, ethical and medical concerns with regards to the cat’s treatment. The final step is to read an article describing “The Sports Gene”, and present the arguments around testing for the sports gene in children.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Using tools and apparatus to conduct investigations
  • Interpreting patterns and trends in data
  • Analyzing results
  • Evaluating processes used in planning, problem solving, and completing a task
  • Working cooperatively with group members
  • Critical thinking
  • Communicating data effectively
  • Identifying further problems or issues to be investigated
  • Identifying various methods for finding answers to given questions as well as solutions to problems


  • An excellent, up-to-date and engaging resource
  • Students are given opportunities to reach their own conclusions and open-ended solutions are encouraged
  • Excellent background information for both teachers and students explaining very complex technologies
  • Lessons are well-presented and easy to use with the objective of each lesson clearly stated, and all worksheets, data tables and handouts are well-organized and student-friendly
  • The resource contains a teacher's guide, useful Power Points, videos and a curriculum mapping document
  • Suggested answers are included for most questions
  • Links to resources on the web are provided
  • Lab activities and simulations are well explained
  • Could be used as a very unique "stand alone" enrichment project
  • The Punnett Square Tutorial is fun, and engaging
  • The "Jetsons" Cartoon is a great introduction to the future potential for developing  technologies.
  • The Kitten Creation activity links science and art outcomes, and is very creative.
  • Lesson twelve is a very creative and interesting approach to modelling types of chromosomal mutations


  • Needs to be more opportunities for students to identify, clarify and express their values with regards to bio-ethics
  • Rubrics will need to be developed by the teacher for most activities, as the resource provides only assessment suggestions
  • No accommodations suggested for struggling readers and students
  • Teachers need a strong biology background to use this resource
  • No authentic action experience is included

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource could be used in high school science and biology courses to address outcomes associated with genetics, heredity, DNA, dominant and recessive traits, Mendel's Laws, punnet squares and molecular biology. Science and technology classes would benefit from the discussions generated from the descriptions of current medical technologies used in assessing and treating disease. It could also be used as a springboard to evaluate different societal perspectives on the development and use of biotechnology.

The entire package could also serve as very comprehensive enrichment project, studying the role of genes and inherited characteristics in improving human health.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 30: Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Genes are the foundation for the diversity of living things
    • Grade 11
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      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science and Technology 11:Science Module: Health
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Cell Biology
      • Philosophy
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Philosophy 12: Examining questions in philosophy allows people to question their assumptions and better understand their own beliefs
  • Manitoba
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    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Current Topics in the Sciences 30S: Science, Technology, Society & the Environment
    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology: Mechanisms of Inheritance
        • Biology: Understanding Biological Inheritance
      • Science
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        • Interdisciplinary Topics in Science 40S: Science, Technology, Society and the Environment
        • Interdisciplinary Topics in Science 40S:Nature of Science and Technology
  • New Brunswick
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    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Genetic Continuity
        • Biology 122/121
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 3201: Genetic Continuity
        • Biology 3201: Reproduction and Development
  • Northwest Territories
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    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 30: Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 12: Genetic Continuity
        • Biology 12: Reproduction and Development
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
        • Biology 30
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 11(College Prep.) Genetics
        • Biology 11(Univer.Prep.) Genetic Processes
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 12 (Univ. Prep.): Molecular Genetics
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science (Univ./College Prep.) Biotechnology
        • Science (Univ./College Prep.) Medical Technologies
  • Prince Edward Island
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    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 621A: Genetic Continuity
        • Biology 621A: Reproduction and Development
  • Quebec
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    • Grade 9
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      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science and Technology: The Technological World
  • Saskatchewan
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    • Grade 12
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      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 30: Genetics and Biotechnology
  • Yukon Territory

Themes Addressed

  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Biotechnology
  • Human Health & Environment (2)

    • Health Promotion
    • Quality of Life
  • Science and Technology (3)

    • Alternative Ways of Doing Science
    • Analysing Conventional Science
    • Appropriate Technology

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

The resource does not deal directly with religious and ethical perspectives surrounding the use of genetic applications of biotechnology. It does touch briefly on the medical ethics of these technologies. It presents a positive view of genetic manipulation.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory

This resource does illustrate environmental, social and economic implications related to biotechnology.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

Although not examining all aspects of this issue, it does illustrate its complexity and promotes understanding, discussion and dialogue among the students

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Although there is a lesson on medical ethics there could be more opportunities for students to express their values and opinions on the personal and social impacts of bio-technology.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

This resource promotes the use of molecular biology to treat, map and identify disease. The future of these technologies could certainly grow to include technologies to enhance the healing of our planet.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Students are asked to examine thier own personal single gene traits and extend this study to their families.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

Lessons sixteen and seventeen focus specifically on the biotechnological developments of the past, and the great potential of genetic modifications and mapping. Modern biotechnology with its concern for human health is all about the future.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Satisfactory

A combination of structured and guided inquiry is used. Students are able to discover some answers on their own with regards to the potential of genetics to treat, map, and avoid disease in the future.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This is primarily a science resource, but there are opportunities for addressing outcomes in language arts, and art.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Very Good
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Both cognitive and affective domains are addressed. A variety of instructional strategies are used, including simulations, hands-on inquiry, research, analysis of data, and games. There are no accommodations suggested for struggling readers.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

Hands-on activities are unique, interesting and directly related to the goal of the lesson

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students work in groups, and also reflect on issues and questions with 'elbow partners".

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

This resource includes excellent follow-up questions for most lessons, complete with answer keys. Personal assessment is encouraged. Teachers will need to design their own evaluation tools and rubrics.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

Case studies are included on desirable traits for dogs and cats and on the "Sports Gene" lesson.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.