Biology, Homeostasis, and Type 2 Diabetes

The goal of this unit is to provide meaningful context for concepts taught in high school biology classes. The story of type 2 diabetes frames core understandings about homeostasis, feedback mechanisms, body systems, genetics, and offers a real-world problem that is in need of solutions. Students often leave high school biology with an understanding of genetics that reinforces how single-gene traits are inherited in Mendelian ratios illustrated with Punnett squares. Our aim is to provide students with an expanded understanding of genetics and other biological concepts that encompass how multiple gene-environment interactions contribute to complex health conditions that impact individuals and vary within populations.

In this phenomenon-driven unit, students are exposed to the complex problem of the rapid increase in diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes across the United States in the past 20 years. Throughout the unit, prevention and treatment are emphasized as students learn how good nutrition, exercise, personal choice, public health policies and community engagement can contribute to positive health outcomes

Click here for the entire Biology, Homeostasis, and Type 2 Diabetes curriculum.

Click here for an overview of the module, which includes the Enduring Understandings for the unit, a gapless explanation, and how the curriculum encorporates the Next Generation Science Standards.

Please contact Joan Griswold at for the accompanying slide set.

Interested in participating in our research study on this curriculum? Read more about teacher expectations and benefits, and fill out the application.

Lesson Description Class
Lesson 1

Asking Questions about Diabetes

Students are exposed to the anchoring phenomenon for the unit through a slide animation from the CDC that shows the rapid increase in diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes in the past 20 years. Students ask questions about the phenomenon and explore how diabetes diagnoses are impacted by age, educational level, geography and other factors. Biology
Lesson 2

Homeostasis: Glucose in Balance

Students trace glucose molecules from carbohydrates they eat to cellular respiration. They are then introduced to glucose homeostasis through a model that shows how organs and systems interact through feedback mechanisms to maintain balance. As an extension, students use yeast as an indicator for cellular respiration. Biology
Lesson 3

Modeling Type 2 Diabetes

Students collect evidence for the causes of type 2 diabetes by using the homeostasis model board to figure out how blood glucose homeostasis is affected by diet, exercise, insulin resistance, and pancreatic function. Biology
Lesson 4

Genes and the Environment

Students learn about environmental, genetic and social factors that influence type 2 diabetes by simulating how high risk and low risk gene variants may be distributed through a population and looking for patterns in their own environments and eating habits. Biology
Lesson 5

Evaluating Solutions

Students evaluate solutions to the complex problem of type 2 diabetes by evaluating and communicating information about four different prevention and treatment options for people with, or at risk for, type 2 diabetes. Using evidence gathered throughout the unit, students engage in argumentation to support their position on the best treatments and preventative measures that address this complex condition. Biology
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