Teaching and Learning Materials

ABE offers many different types of teaching and learning resources that can be used to teach biology and biotechnology in secondary school settings. All ABE teaching and learning materials should be used for educational purposes only.

NOTE: All Teacher Guides require a password. Please contact abeinfo@edc.org with your name, school/organization, and location, along with the module you are interested in accessing, to obtain the password.

ABE Lab-based Investigations

The ABE lab-based investigations allow students to learn about core technologies used by scientists in the discovery of human therapeutics, so that they will better understand the role of biotechnology and the potential impact of this industry on our future.

These materials allow students to carry out some of the important steps in the biotechnology industry to develop medicines to treat a variety of diseases. By engaging in this program, students will be more motivated to understand the underlying science concepts, develop critical laboratory skills, and be equipped to pursue future careers in science.

If students complete the full sequence of ABE labs (which takes ~3 weeks), they will produce a recombinant DNA molecule and then use it to transform E. coli. The ABE program also offers three shorter, alternative sequences of labs.

ABE Classroom-based Investigations

The ABE classroom-based investigations are designed to engage students in exploring biology and biotechnology content with hands-on activities in the classroom. These materials do not include the use of laboratory equipment and can be carried out in regular classrooms, though they do involve hands-on activities and require the use of easily available materials.

ABE Web-based Investigations

ABE’s Web-based investigations are designed to allow students to explore biotechnology content online in a self-paced fashion. Educators can use these resources to supplement or extend biotechnology content.


ABE Lab-based Investigations

Complete Genetic Engineering Sequence (18–20 class sessions)

In the Complete Genetic Engineering Sequence, students explore how to use recombinant DNA techniques to introduce new genes into an organism and have that organism produce new proteins. In this sequence, students create a recombinant plasmid with a red fluorescent protein gene from a sea anemone. They then transform Escherichia coli (E. coli) with the plasmid. The process is analogous to the process used to produce human therapeutic protein proteins, such as insulin or human growth hormone.

Abridged Genetic Engineering Sequence (16–18 class sessions)

The Abridged Genetic Engineering Sequence is identical to the Complete Genetic Engineering Sequence except that students are provided with the recombinant plasmid rather than creating it themselves.

Focus on Bacteria Sequence (12–14 class sessions)

The Focus on Bacteria Sequence allows students to complete the process of bacterial transformation. In this sequence, students are provided with the plasmid that they use to transform the bacteria and do not complete the confirmation steps.

Introduction to Biotechnology Sequence (4–5 class sessions)

In the Introduction to Biotechnology Sequence, students read about the genetic engineering process and learn how to use basic biotechnology lab tools. By completing this sequence, students learn that specific tools are used in recombinant DNA techniques.

Colony PCR (1–2 class sessions)

The Colony PCR lab is designed to be used after completing the ABE labs. In it, students sample a colony from a plate and perform PCR on it to confirm the presence of the desired plasmid.

Collection of All Labs

These files contain all of the individual labs used in the sequences above. 

Audio Student Guide

The Audio Student Guide is a complete recording of all of the chapters of the Student Guides for every sequence of the ABE Labs.

Student Lab Manual

The Student Lab Manual is a companion to the Student Guide and is designed to be used in a laboratory setting. The Student Lab Manual provides abbreviated descriptions of each lab plus the lab protocols.

Miniprep Documents

The ABE labs use recombinant plasmids to transform bacterial cells, which then express the desired protein, red fluorescent protein. The production of these plasmids is called a "prep" and consists of three phases: growth of the plasmids in a bacterial culture, concentration and lysing of the cells and finally, purification and confirmation of the desired plasmid. Plasmid preps vary in the amount of plasmid DNA yield. Teachers wishing to delve more deeply can have students perform a miniprep with the following three labs. Plasmid preps are named according to the amount of the final plasmid DNA yield: a miniprep typically yields 5–50µg whereas a maxiprep yields 500-850µg. These same steps are done in industrial labs on a much greater scale and are called gigapreps which yield 7.5–10mg of DNA.

©2015 ABE Teacher and Student Guides

The complete ©2015 Teacher and Student Guides are included here for teachers still using this edition. 

Standards Correlations

View standards correlations for the ABE labs for the United States and the United Kingdom.


Exploring Precision Medicine

ABE’s Precision Medicine module explores the connections between genes and traits. Students learn how slight genetic differences can impact how well a patient responds to certain medications, and explore how future physicians may use DNA sequencing to inform clinical decision-making. Students examine how variations in a gene influences individuals’ abilities to taste the bitter compound “PTC,” then compare these tiny differences to those responsible for variations in medication metabolism.


ABE Classroom-based Investigations

The ABE curricula are designed to engage students in exploring biology and biotechnology content with hands-on activities in the classroom. These materials do not include the use of laboratory equipment and can be carried out in regular classrooms, though they do involve hands-on activities and require the use of easily available materials.

Chasing Cystic Fibrosis Teacher Guide (8–9 class sessions)

Students become engaged in learning about the disease cystic fibrosis (CF): they develop questions that they have about CF, its treatment, and its consequences, and then explore how they can transform their questions into scientific questions that can be investigated. Students also examine real data to determine how CF is inherited, experiment with osmosis to explore the disease’s possible mechanism of action, and investigate transcription and translation of CFTR exons. 

Clinical Trials: From Disease to Medicine (8–10 class sessions)

In the From Disease to Medicine module, students learn about the purpose and structure of clinical research by exploring the various phases of a clinical trial. Students investigate the timeline of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, taking on the role of researchers who are developing a promising new H1N1 vaccine. Throughout the module, students engage in different hands-on activities such as:

  • Exploring the role of the placebo effect in clinical trials
  • Developing recruiting materials for participants for a mock study
  • Completing an application to begin a fictional clinical trial

The module asks students to consider the challenges of developing medicines and vaccines and the rigorous nature of the process.  Students also explore how and why the design of clinical trials has evolved over time.

What Can We Learn from Extreme Phenotypes? Teacher Guide (8–14 class sessions)

Students learn that genetics is more complex than the simple binary relationship it is often portrayed as having. They explore how extreme phenotypes can be used to inform our understanding of drug development and investigate some of the cutting edge techniques being used in biotechnology today, including genome wide association studies and CRISPR-Cas9.

You Becoming You Teacher Guide (6–8 class sessions)

Students are introduced to the concept of genes that code for the traits that are expressed by organisms and examine the genetics of some familiar organisms.


ABE Web-based Investigations

ABE’s eLearning resources are designed to allow students to explore biotechnology content online in a self-paced fashion. Educators can use these resources to supplement or extend biotechnology content.

Bioethics of Gene Editing

Lyme disease is a pervasive problem in the United States. Kevin Esvelt, a scientist at MIT, is trying to use gene editing to disrupt the cycle of transmission. In this module, students learn about gene editing using the CRISPR process and consider the ethics of four case studies in which biotechnology is used to solve human problems. After learning about specific cases, students decide whether they agree or disagree with using gene editing to help solve a human problem and share their thoughts with their classmates.

Responding to a Mystery Illness

This resource is based on real events, though the timeline and details may have been changed to allow it to be used for educational purposes. As part of an imaginary WHO team, students help determine which organism is causing a mysterious illness first described in China, try to halt its spread, and begin the work of developing a vaccine.

This course is also available on LabXchange using class code 537DF0

Saving a Life

A man drinks an unknown liquid and soon is found unresponsive in an emergency room. Students use bioinformatics tools to investigate what substance caused such a life-threatening response. 

Using Bioinformatics to Track Down a Rare Cause of Diabetes

Many people are aware of the main two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. However, few people know that there are other types of diabetes. One type occurs in pregnant women (gestational diabetes), but there are others still. A rare type of diabetes is called maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). MODY is frequently misdiagnosed as type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Different types of diabetes require different treatments, so determining the genetics of diabetes becomes important in developing and prescribing treatments.

In this module, students use bioinformatics to study a Norwegian family in which several members had MODY to better understand the causes of this rare genetic disorder and also to learn more about insulin.

Total Student Participation
Teacher Participation for 2019-20 School Year