University of Pennsylvania

Graduate School of Education

About Us

In Fall 2016, we began exploring how synthetic biology—where living cells are genetically modified to generate new characteristics that can be used in practical ways—can be learned in K-12 learning environments. To accomplish this, we developed the BioMaker Lab: a low cost mobile lab device that could be used to genetically modify and fabricate (or grow) bacterial or yeast cells. At the same time, we developed lab and accompanying curriculum activities that not only afforded learners a hands-on opportunity to engage with synthetic biology, but also required that they contemplate socioscientific and ethical issues such as the impact biotechnologies like synthetic biology have on society, the environment and ecosystems. All curriculum units involve a fabrication phase where students use the BioMaker Lab device to fabricate genetically modified cell lines. Each unit then has a unique a research & development phase where students make unique practical uses of newly fabricated cells and present their outcomes using a variety of mediums. The three activities we developed include BioLogo, BioSensor and BioCakes. The associated curriculum materials can be found and accessed on this page.