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Unit Title: Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses

Please note that these plans are a work in progress. They will be revised, assessed, and re-piloted over the next two years.

Grade Level: 9th Grade
Subject/Topic Areas:
Key Words:
Teachers: Joe Ruhl and Jenny Veatch
Time Frame:
School Districts: Lafayette School Corporation and Crawfordsville High School
Schools: Lafayette Jefferson High School and Crawfordsville Community School Corporation

Class 1 Class 2

Class 3 Class 4


Brief Summary of Unit:

The 9th grade biology curriculum is already full and teachers often feel pressured by trying to “cover everything” during the course of the school year. With that in mind, this 9th grade biology unit was designed not to be an “add-on”, but rather to provide a new and exciting way to teach standard concepts that biology teachers already teach. With this unit, biology teachers will still teach concepts such as the scientific method, the use of compound and dissecting microscopes, animal diversity, life cycles, cells, biochemistry, and the social implications of the biological sciences. The only difference is that this unit will enable teachers to teach these concepts with a real-world, practical application approach, using examples from veterinary and human medicine. Relevancy is a natural with this unit because kids have a heart for their pets. Kids have first hand (sometimes painful) familiarity with sickness, medications, and medical procedures both in their pets and in themselves and their family members. Our belief is that this relevant, practical approach will help kids to better learn biology and to better understand the role that animals play in keeping people healthy.


The goals of this project are to teach 9th grade biology students the role animals play in keeping people healthy by:

1. helping students appreciate that all organisms – humans and other animals such as dogs and horses – are made of the same “stuff” (cells, macromolecules, and molecules) and,

2. helping students to understand that because of the commonality and relatedness of all life, pharmaceuticals produced for humans can be tested on non-human animals, and medical procedures perfected in non-human animals can then be applied to us, making for healthier pets, livestock, and humans.

Academic Standards


2010 Pilot

Scientific Method

How about a bit of a “twist” on C.S.I. on this by working through an unknown disease/problem with a dog? Vets, doctors, etc. do the scientific method every day when they are addressing patient’s ailments.

Lesson 1:

Now, go to microscopy section so they can learn these skills before they run “experiments” to find out what is wrong with the pet from the 1st video clip they saw

Microscopy Scientific Tools

1. Demonstrate general microscope skills/Proper handling

2. Perform a “traditional” compound microscope lab

Lesson 2: Compound Microscope Lab (PDF)

3. Discuss the dissecting microscope and its uses

Lesson 3: Freshwater Invertebrate Lab

Lesson 4: Tiny Invertebrates That Can Make Our Animals (and US!) Sick

Lesson 5: Deer Ticks-Tiny inverts that transmit Lyme Disease!

 4. Speaking of disease, “One Medicine, One Disease”
-Medicines can be used on us and animals because we are made of the same “stuff!”

 Now go to Cells
*Animals and humans are the same here and at the macromolecule level
*Now go into what that “critter” is that caused the sickness in the pet so they can understand the culprit and how to treat it.

All Cells Are Made of the Same "Stuff"

Lesson 6: All Living Things are Made of the Same “Stuff”

Ethics/Animal Testing/Drug Development

Lesson 7: Ethics/ Animal Testing/ Drug Development

Lesson 8: Cloning

Lesson 1:

1. Video of a conversation between an owner and their vet: Show a short video of a person discussing their dog’s signs with their vet. Show the dog, the owner and the vet in the segment. (Make as real life as possible)

Video: Buddy visits the veterinarian 

-Stop the video and discuss the following (aiming the conversation towards the scientific method):

a. What is the problem/question at hand?
-Brainstorm as a group

b. What do we know?
-Take time now to read the Elephant Poem so students realize
that there are many ways to interpret things and that is why
many hypothesis are wrong and why experiments MUST be done.

c. What is our hypothesis?
-Have the class collaborate on what they feel is the most plausible explanation for the animals ailments.

d. Discuss what tools the vet used in his experiment.

 Buddy visits the veterinarian

Lesson 3:  Freshwater Invertebrate Lab


Notes for the teacher:

Another one of the tools that can be useful in both veterinary medicine and human medicine is the dissecting microscope. This microscope (normally a binocular scope) doesn’t have the magnification powers of a compound microscope. It can be used, though, to study organisms that are macroscopic, yet still too small to see with the unaided eye. In this lesson we will help students learn to use a dissecting microscope by searching for tiny freshwater invertebrates in samples of pond water.

In addition to the materials listed in the student lab entitled “Hunting for Freshwater Invertebrates”, you will need to collect a couple plastic buckets of pond water. It is best to collect water from a quiet swamp that is covered with an abundant growth of duckweed and full of luxuriant aquatic plants. Early fall or spring would be the best time to do this activity. Also listed in the materials section of the student lab is an item known as a foam-well slide. These slides will need to be constructed before the students do the lab. For instructions on how to make the foam-well slides, refer to the following web site:


LESSON # 3 Sequence:

1. Hand out to the students the lesson notes entitled “Some Freshwater Invertebrates You Might Find”.

2. Point out to the students that dissecting microscopes can be very useful tools in both veterinary and human medicine, and that we will learn to use these instruments by taking a safari through pond water to discover the secret lives of tiny creatures that most people don’t even know exist.

3. As a preview to the pond water lab activity, go through the PowerPoint presentation with the students entitled “Fresh Water Invertebrates” (Large PDF ~75MB). It might be helpful to make an overhead transparency of each page of the lesson notes entitled “Some Freshwater Invertebrates You Might Find”. You could then use a two-screen presentation, helping the students fill out the lesson notes on the overhead projector on one screen while showing the PowerPoint presentation on the second screen. This presentation is designed not to teach students everything there is to know about freshwater invertebrates, but to familiarize them with some of the fascinating tiny creatures that they will encounter in the lab. They will be amazed at what they will discover, and at the same time, they will master the use of the dissecting microscope.

4. Have the students do the lab entitled “Hunting for Freshwater Invertebrates”. Note: Take a look at these instructions for how to construct your own Pour Person's Plankton Net. This will enable you to concentrate fresh water microinvertebrates so that your students are sure to see them! 


Lesson 4: Tiny Invertebrates That Can Make Our Animals (and US!) Sick


Notes for the teacher (docx):

Now that your students have been introduced to the invertebrate world, it’s time to show them some relatives of their benign little freshwater invertebrate friends who aren’t so friendly.

LESSON # 4 Invertebrate


various worms jar of Ascaris roundworms

Lesson 5:  Deer Ticks-Tiny inverts that transmit Lyme Disease!


Notes for the teacher:

Now that your students know something about invertebrates that can make our animals and us sick, it’s time to look closely at one example – Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the deer tick. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is known as a spirochete because of its long, corkscrew shape. In this lesson, your students will carry out a simulated ELISA test for antibodies in the simulated blood of several “patients”. The lab kit for this lesson is entitled “ELISA Simulation Kit”. It can be purchased from Carolina Biological Supply Company and the kit contains directions for the teacher, student lab instructions, and all the materials and chemicals needed. Complete background information is also provided for the teacher, and several disease scenarios are described in the kit. Use the Lyme disease scenario.

LESSON # 5 Sequence

1. Pull out the poster produced by the group that reported on the deer tick/Lyme disease cycle.

2. Tell the students that sometimes in veterinary medicine and in human medicine, a doctor will need to draw a blood sample from the patient to test for the presence of certain suspected disease-causing organisms. When that blood sample goes to the laboratory, what kinds of tests are done on the sample? Today we will learn about one test that can be performed to check for Lyme disease infection.

3. Using the ELISA Simulation Kit, have the students work through the lab activity in which they will use the ELISA technique to test the blood samples of several “patients” for Lyme disease.

4. As a follow-up to the lab activity, have the students work in groups of three on answering the questions in the student guide part of the kit.

5. Pose the following questions/comments to the students:

Do you think this same blood test (ELISA test) would detect Lyme disease antibodies in non-human animals such as deer or cows?

(The answer is “Yes!”)

Why would this same test work on humans as well as other animals? Because we and the other animals are made of the same stuff! In the next lesson, we’ll find out just what that means.

working with the ELISA simulation test kit working with the ELISA simulation test kit

Lesson 6:  All Living Things are Made of the Same “Stuff”


Notes for the teacher

Humans can catch Lyme disease and as we have learned, the same bacterium that causes the disease can survive in other animals as well. Many disease-causing organisms can infect both our animals and us. How is that possible? Because we and our animals (dogs, horses, and others) are made of the same “stuff”. Just what does that mean? It means we and all other living things are made of cells. But it goes much deeper than that. The cells of all living things contain the same miniature working parts called organelles. And the kinship of all life on earth goes even deeper than that. The cells and organelles of all living things are made up of the same kinds of molecules, and it’s a good thing! Because we and all other living things are made of the same “stuff”, drugs and medicines produced for animals can be used on humans as well. Drugs and medicines produced specifically for humans can be tested on animals and we can be confident in the results of those tests – because we ARE made of the same stuff. In this lesson we will look closely at the anatomy, cells, organelles, and molecules that make up not only us, our non-human animal companions, and other living things on earth.

LESSON # 6 Sequence

1. At this point in the lesson flow, students can begin to discover similarities between humans and other organisms by engaging in a hands-on guided inquiry comparative anatomy lab. The students can compare similarities and differences between human and dog skeletons by doing the activity entitled Dear Fido (or Max, or Sophie, or Buddy, or Molly), How am I like Thee? Let me count the ways (.doc). One of the items in the materials list of the lab is a dog anatomy computer simulation created by Dr. Kevin Hannon from Purdue Veterinary Medicine.

2. Back in Lesson #2, not only did the students learn how to use the compound microscope, they also learned just how similar the cells of different (seemingly unrelated) organisms are when viewed through the microscope.

3. Now that the students are aware of the similarities of all living things on the cell level, let’s go even deeper than that – to the level of the organelles that make up cells. Have the students do the activity entitled “How the Cell Works”. This activity will open the students’ eyes to the functions of the cell organelles that are common to humans, dogs, horses, and in fact, all living things.

4. As a follow-up to the activity entitled “How the Cell Works”, show the students the PowerPoint presentation entitled “Cell Organelles.” In this presentation you and the students will be looking at electron micrographs of key cell organelles in cells of dogs, horses, and humans. You might want to incorporate a guessing game into the presentation. See if the students can guess which organisms the different photographs came from. They will soon discover that on the level of cells and organelles, it is very difficult to tell a dog from a horse to a human.

5. The similarities of all living things goes even deeper than cells and organelles – down to the molecules that organelles are made of. Have the students do the activity entitled “Building Models of Molecules”. In this fun, hands-on activity, the students will build models of biologically important molecules, using different colored gumdrops to represent atoms and toothpicks to represent the bonds holding the atoms together in the molecules.

As a follow-up to the activity entitled “Building Models of Molecules”, choose one of the posters of molecules produced by one of the groups. Hold up the poster and discuss the importance of each kind of molecule with the class. Some possible discussion questions/comments:

a. Why is Oimportant?

b. Where does O2 come from?

c. Where does CO2 come from?

d. Take a look at glucose. Where does glucose come from?

e. When plants manufacture glucose (photosynthesis) where do you think they get the carbon atoms that eventually end up in the glucose molecule? Where do you think they get the hydrogen atoms?

f. Why are amino acid molecules important?

Using children’s plastic, linking building blocks of various colors (to represent amino acids), demonstrate how proteins are built by linking the building blocks together end-to-end.

g. Why are protein molecules important?

h. Point out that the antibodies that they learned about in the ELISA lab are actually protein molecules (long strings of amino acids). Remind the students that there are millions of different kinds of protein molecules in all the living things on earth, and that these proteins are all made of different combinations of just 20 different kinds of amino acids.

Tell the students that because all living things are made of the same kinds of molecules, that drugs and medicines produced for humans can be tested on other animals. In the next series of lessons, we’ll take a look at how drugs can be developed and tested on experimental animals – drugs than can then be given to humans and our non-human animal companions.

6. Teacher Notes:

  1. This unit should come after discussing the cellular components and the cell cycle in detail. This lesson is very self-directed and will need very little teacher direction, if the students have a clear understanding of the cell cycle prior to introduction of it.
  2. The first activity titled “Cancer” is a web quest that has students research the very basics of cancer using the Livestrong Website and Cancer.org.
  3. After doing the Cancer web quest students should then do a second activity titled “How is Fido Going to Help People?” This lesson will illustrate how cancers detected in people’s pets are used in research to not only treat/cure the animal, but to also find treatments and cures for people. Cancer research centers, like the one at Purdue University, rely on the data that is gleaned from scientists that study animals and their diseases.

Cancer Activity (.docx)

working with microscope working with microscope

working with microscope working with microscope


Lesson 7:  Ethics/ Animal Testing/ Drug Development


1. Intro. with: We just discussed how organisms are similar in many ways. The reason drugs and medical treatments designed for humans can be tested on non-human animals is because we are made of the same “stuff”. But sometimes controversy arises…

-Of Cures and Creatures Great and Small (reading) and discussion questions

http://www.readingquest.org/strat/tps.html for this:


Ethics and Animal testing (PDF)

3. At this time it might be appropriate to discuss “Ethics in Biology/Testing?”
-Guest Speaker: Purdue Professor Linda Chezem

4. Eli Lilly Video and discussion questions 

-The video is entitled "The Future Begins Yesterday". When you go to that page online, go to Partnerships -> Eli Lilly and the video will be on that page.

-Question for small groups 
Eli Lilly Video discussion questions (PDF)


Lesson 8:  Cloning


Notes for the Teacher

Cloning can be a hot topic for students because its futuristic uses and abuses have been the subject of numerous science fiction films and even some comedies. Your students may have a little background knowledge of cloning, and they certainly will have some misinformation on the topic! In this lesson, students will learn about why it is so important to use laboratory animals that are genetically similar, and how cloning can be used to provide genetically identical copies of laboratory research animals.

LESSON # 8 Sequence

1. In discussion with the students, refer back to previous lessons on the importance of laboratory animal testing in medical research. Ask the students, “When testing drugs or other medicines on laboratory test animals, why is it so important to have animals that are genetically very similar?” (Answer: In experiments of any kind, it is important to attempt to control all variables. If all of the research animals in a test group were different, there would be too many uncontrolled variables. If all of the animals in a test group were similar, we could be more confident of the experimental results.)

2. Ask the students “Why is it that all pedigreed German Shepherd Dogs are so alike genetically? (Answer: German Shepherd dogs – as all other breeds of dogs – have been selectively bred over many generations to be purebred.”)

3. Tell the students “It’s true that all German Shepherd dogs are very similar, genetically, but no two German Shepherd dogs are EXACTLY identical (except for identical twins) in every little molecular detail. How COULD identical, exact copies of German Shepherd dogs (or any other living thing for that matter) be produced?” (Answer: Reproductive cloning.)

4. Tell the students, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could create genetically identical copies of laboratory test animals (rats or mice for example) using the process of reproductive cloning? Then when it comes to animal testing experiments, all those pesky little variables could be controlled, and we could be even more confident of our test results.”

5. Introduce the students to the Internet activity entitled “Cloning”. This fun, highly interactive website will engage the students and help them learn about the history and the techniques involved in reproductive cloning. 

The project described is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH . . . Turning Discovery Into Health

Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of ORIP or NIH.