Module: Alzheimer’s Disease


Major Themes for the Unit

  • Scientific themes: Protein Synthesis: transcription, translation, protein folding
  • Scientific practice: Computational Thinking, Modeling
  • Cross-cutting Concepts: Structure and Function, Patterns, Cause and Effect
  • SSI: Alzheimer’s Disease and Genetic Testing


Driving Question: Should the genetic tests for determining Alzheimer's disease risk be available to the public? Should health insurance companies be allowed to require their clients to take the Alzheimer’s test?


Concepts needed to explore the driving question

  • Science concepts
    • Structure of DNA
    • Transcription
    • Translation
    • Protein Folding
    • Environmental Impacts
    • Genetic mutations
  • What social ideas and concerns influence negotiation of the issue?
    • Insurance
    • Politics
    • Economic Status


Unit-level performance expectations



STANDARD / PE: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.

ASSESSMENT BOUNDARY: Assessment does not include identification of specific cell or tissue types, whole body systems, specific protein structures and functions, or the biochemistry of protein synthesis.


STANDARD / PE: Make and defend a claim based on evidence that inheritable genetic variations may result from: (1) new genetic combinations through meiosis, (2) viable errors occurring during replication, and/or (3) mutations caused by environmental factors.

CLARIFICATION STATEMENT: Emphasis is on using data to support arguments for the way variation occurs.

ASSESSMENT BOUNDARY: Assessment does not include the phases of meiosis or the biochemical mechanism of specific steps in the process.

Social Connections

Students will analyze and interpret data and use evidence driven argumentation to describe the effects of either side of the issue of insurance and genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease.

Unit assessment(s)

●Models and algorithms

●Culminating Activity

●Content pre and post exam- multiple choice and short answer


Lesson sequence

Lesson  (time)

Lesson Focus

Learner Objectives


1 (120 min)

Issue Introduction & DNA review

Students will create a model to represent the structure of DNA base-pairing.

Pre test, watch Alzheimer’s video, Molecular Workbench Simulations (MWB), draw DNA model

2 (120 min)

Transcription Review and Intro to Computational Thinking (CT)

Students will construct an algorithm that explains the patterns and sequence of the process of transcription.

Play Lightbot, review transcription details with MWB, create group transcription algorithms, create a class consensus transcription algorithm

3 (180+ min)


Students will design a program to simulate the patterns associated with the translation process.
Students will simulate how the system of the translation process functions.

Investigate translation with MWB, watch HHMI translation video and use it to create individual translation algorithms, body model the translation process, adjust translation algorithms, build Scratch translation program

4 (90 min)

Protein Folding

Students will simulate and develop an algorithm for how a protein folds, based on the structure of the amino acids in the chain.

Investigate protein folding with MWB, Body model protein folding, create protein folding algorithms

5 (120 min)

Mutations and their Effects; Alzheimer’s Disease

Students will simulate the effects that mutations have on protein synthesis.

Student investigate mutations with MWB, determine the effects mutations have on protein structure with Scratch program and body modeling; connect to Alzheimer’s: Early and late onset

6 (90 min)

Lifestyle and Diseases

Students will create an algorithm for the possible effects that the lifestyle has on diseases.


Investigate how lifestyle affects diseases, compare and contrast early and late onset Alzheimer’s, create a model that predicts the possible Alzheimer’s outcome

7 (90 min + homework)

Negotiating the Issue (Culminating Activity)

Students will analyze and interpret data and use evidence driven argumentation to describe the effects of either side of the issue of insurance and genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease.

Investigate genetic testing, prepare an evidence based argument in the form of a pamphlet for public distribution, post test


**The unit references a practitioner article that will be published in the American Biology Teacher journal.  Contact Mandy Peel at for an electronic copy of the article.

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