Open Source Resources for Teaching Synthetic Biology in Low-Resource Settings – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
HS-LS3-1, MS-LS3-2, MS-LS3-1, 3-LS3-1, 3-LS3-2

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Harry Akligoh
Harry Akligoh
Informal educator
Harry Akligoh works by educating and training young students between the ages of 9 years to 16 years through the 4 STEM labs called Prac-science Lab he established used by 6 schools in his local Ghanaian community in Kumasi. Harry… Read More


Despite the wealth of teaching resources available on the internet, there is a lack of good quality resources for teaching synthetic biology concepts in low resource settings. At the same time, the number of makerspaces and fab labs around the world is growing fast, and 3D printers – which can make many items of low cost, open source scientific hardware – are available in ever more places. Therefore, the lesson summary include;

  1. An Introduction to Genes with the Bingo Traits Game.
  2. Living Cells and Microscopy with 3D printed WaterScope.
  3. Grow your own Microbes – Part1.
  4. Grow your own Microbes – Part2.
  5. DNA extraction from Fruits.
  6. Introduction to Synthetic Biology.


What You'll Need

  1. Microscope (can use a Waterscope, or other type of microscope)
  2. Microscope slide
  3. Cover slip (clear tape can be used)
  4. Sample cells (plant leaf and/or cheek cell suspension from rinsing your mouth with water)
  5. Stain, such as iodine or toluidine blue
  6. Paper origami of DNA
  7. 3D printer


The Instructions

Prepare a microscope slide

The microscope slide will serve as the stage where the cells for viewing under the microscope will be.

  1. Gargle some water in your mouth and pour it in a clean disposal cup to obtain your cheek cells, or mash some plant leaves in water to obtain a plant leave/water mixture.
  2. Place a drop of either the cheek cell or plant leaf suspension on the microscope.
  3. Place a drop of stain, such as iodine or toluidine blue.
  4. Using a cello tape, cover the drop of cell suspension.


Assembly 3D printed waterscope (Microscope)

The waterscope is a low-cost microscope for educational purposes for studying cells built using 3D printed parts, LED, Arduino and an android phone or laptop for viewing cells (ocular lens).

  1. Obtain the STL files for 3D printing and use the 3D printer to print the parts for assembling the waterscope.
  2. Program your Arduino by uploading the open source code from running the waterscope found on the waterscope website.
  3. Assemble your waterscope for use.



  • (HS-LS3-1): Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.
  • (MS-LS3-2): Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.
  • (MS-LS3-1): Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.
  • (3-LS3-1): Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
  • (3-LS3-2): Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.

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