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Newsletter - October 2010

We’ve recently added a new focus story to the Hub – Easy care sheep. These sheep, developed by AgResearch, have been selectively bred to be more productive and less labour-intensive for farmers. This focus story reveals more about these sheep and why they were developed.

The story provides content to support learning about the Nature of technology and the Nature of science as well as specific information on selective breeding and genetics for science and biology. The story also provides scope for stimulating discussion about ethics at a range of student levels.

We hope you enjoy using these resources and exploring others on the Biotechnology Learning Hub.

What's new on the Hub?

Easy care sheep – Focus story
Researchers have selected traits they deem to make sheep easier and cheaper to farm and combined these to create an easy care sheep. This focus story investigates which traits are selected, how they are selected and how these sheep are bred.

Easy care sheep traits – Information sheet
Traditionally, sheep farmers bred sheep to grow wool ‘from the nose to the toes’, believing a heavier fleece brought greater return. But too much wool in some areas makes sheep more difficult and costly to look after. Traits such as a bare backside, belly, legs and head as well as a short tail have been selectively bred into the easy care sheep. This makes the sheep more cost-effective and productive.

Finding easy care sheep traits – Information sheet
Scientists at AgResearch first had to find sheep that expressed the traits they wanted – they did this in stages. They focused on particular traits at each stage. Different breeds of sheep were used at different stages to introduce a particular trait.

The need for easy care sheep – Information sheet
Falling prices and demand for wool led scientists at AgResearch to develop an easy care sheep that is more efficient to farm and brings better returns. Their aim was to remove all the unnecessary parts of the sheep and fleece to create sheep that were more productive and easier and cheaper to maintain.

Teaching activities

Ethics in sheep breeding – Unit plan
In this unit, students develop their knowledge of selective sheep breeding so they can formulate an argument and make ethical decisions about breeding easy care sheep. The unit links to the Ethics thinking tool and video clips about teaching ethics and different ethical approaches. The unit is written for middle and upper primary students but can be adapted for secondary students.

Selective sheep breeding noisy round robin and PMI – Student activity
In this activity, students use a round robin activity and PMI worksheets to generate ideas about the effect of selective breeding of easy care sheep on different groups that may be involved. This will help students consider the harms and benefits of easy care sheep breeding.

Biotech news articles

Keep up to date with the latest biotechnology news, events and radio broadcasts. We add more items regularly, so keep an eye out for these. You could use these articles as lesson starters or extension activities.

Bacteria that kill insect pests – News item
Researchers from Auckland University plan to genetically engineer bacteria that could be used to control and remove insects in a ‘clean and green’ way without using sprays or chemicals.

Computer game for stroke patients – News item
A New Zealand company is using a computer game to help stroke patients get their muscles moving again.

The singing scientist and epigenetics – Radio New Zealand audio
Epigenomics researcher Matthew Barnett has put the subject of his research to music and is investigating whether food can turn genes on or off.

More news, audio and events

We welcome your ideas

We’re keen to hear from teachers using our resources. Email us at enquiries@biotechlearn.org.nz if you have any questions, comments or feedback about the Hub, or complete our online feedback form.

Best wishes,
The Biotechnology Learning Hub team


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