Given that science and engineering practices are a large focus in the Next
Generation Science Standards, biology teachers need to find ways to
incorporate the engineering design process into their curriculum. To address
this need, I present a lesson that allows for student collaboration in designing
and developing a solution to a global problem resulting from overfishing and
our use of unsustainable fishing practices. This lesson also demonstrates to
students that larger, global issues that seem insurmountable to solve can be
broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. My approach involves
having students research a problem related to sustainable fishing practices
and design a physical model of a solution to combat their specific issue. Peer
review is then used in order to help students revise and edit their models
during the lesson in response to the peer feedback received. The lesson will
culminate in a presentation to the class about the biological, social, and
economic ramifications of both their assigned problem and a potential solution.
Key Words: Next Generation Science Standards; NGSS; engineering design process;
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) put an emphasis on
science and engineering practices while also focusing on student-centered activities and the involvement of inquiry in our lessons
(NGSS Lead States, 2013). To many biology teachers, the involvement of engineering in our curriculum is a brand new concept and
not something that many of us have training or background in.
As the NGSS are rolled out in more and more schools and districts,
and teachers begin looking for open education resources for guidance and ideas, it becomes obvious that few lessons geared for the
biology classroom that involve engineering are currently available.
Many of the lessons that are available incorporate design-based
learning (DBL), used to inspire high school students to pursue
careers in science or engineering (Apedoe et al., 2008). Studies
have found that students involved in DBL classrooms obtained
more content knowledge and were better equipped with problem
solving and science inquiry skills than those in classrooms using
traditional science teaching methods (Kolodner et al., 2003; Silk
et al., 2007; Mehalik et al., 2008). Commonly, the engineering
design process is taught as a series of steps in which the designers
define a problem, conduct background research on it, and specify
the requirements for solving it before brainstorming and deciding
upon a solution that they will then build and test a prototype for.
This prototype will go through testing where modifications can
be made until the solution meets the requirements specified earlier
in the process. This makes engineering design a much more circu-
lar, rather than linear, process (see https://www.teachengineering.
org/k12engineering/designprocess). The lesson I present here specifi-
cally addresses NGSS performance expectations HS-ETS1-1,
HS-ETS1-2, and HS-LS2-7 (Ecosystem Stability and Response to Cli-
mate Change; NGSS Lead States, 2013).
I used this lesson as the culmination of units on ecology and
human impacts on the ecosystem. To be successful in designing a
solution, students should have prior knowledge on the ecological
principles of food webs, trophic cascades, predator–prey relationships, and eutrophication in ecosystems. This lesson also requires
students to research many different aspects of this biological problem, so students should have strong research skills and access to
technology that enables this research. Finally, students should be
able to design tests on their solutions that may or may not meet a
goal they themselves establish. For these reasons, this lesson is best
used later in the year as a culminating assessment for a larger ecology
or human impacts unit.
The old adage that there are “plenty of fish in the sea” no longer
applies to the world in which we live. Increased fishing pressure,
coupled with destructive fishing practices, has led scientists to
estimate that 70% of the world’s marine fisheries are either fully
The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 81, No. 5, pp. 340–350, ISSN 0002-7685, electronic ISSN 1938-4211. © 2019 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights
reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page,
www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p=reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2019.81.5.340.
Designing a Solution to the Global
Problem of Overfishing Using the
Engineering Design Process
• COURTNEY GOODE