This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled PRISM Workshop: Implementing Investigative Case-Based Learning at Center for Science Education in June 2003. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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The Case: A Friday in September

Session 1: Scene 1:
Mrs. Worsham 7th grade life sciences students are on a field trip to Sweetwater Creek as an extension to their ecology unit. The students have been hiking all morning and have come to a grassy area where they are going to enjoy a picnic lunch and some much needed rest.

A small group of students including Jennifer, known for bossing everyone around, her friend Kim, Marcus and his buddy Phillip, Abu, a new student from Nigeria (and the smallest of the bunch) and his friend Jonathon have finished their lunch early and are milling around.

Jennifer suddenly complains, “I am so bored!!! Let’s head back to the bus – my CD player is there. I’ve been hiking here before and know a shortcut”.

The small group sneaks off down a path with Jennifer in the lead. An hour later the group realizes that Jennifer’s “short cut” is an absolute disaster. The students begin grumbling about the heat and the length of the trail.

“Way to go Jennifer,” Marcus says.

“Yeah” Phillip chimes in, “Some shortcut!!”

Kim begins complaining about being hot, sweaty and thirsty. Jonathon notices that Abu has started breathing heavy and is having a hard time keeping up with the group. He gives Abu some water and notices the others getting further ahead.

“Hey, wait up!!” Jonathon shouts at the others.

Jonathon and Abu start to run but Abu stumbles and falls to the ground, breathing heavily. Marcus looks back and sees that Abu has fallen and Jonathon can’t get him to stand up.

“Come on you wimps, hurry up, the buses will leave us”

Abu is sitting on the ground holding his calves. “I’m too tired and my legs hurt too bad to stand up… my hands are really starting to hurt too,” he tells Jonathon.

Jonathon notices that Abu’s eyes appear jaundice and he seems oxygen deprived. He doesn’t know what to do.

Scene 2:

Jonathon tells Abu to keep still and to keep drinking water. He refuses to let Abu try to stand and walk. Jonathon runs after Jennifer and the group.

“Hey guys,” he yelled. “Abu is not feeling well and can’t walk. You guys tell Mrs. Worsham to get help and I’ll stay with him.”

The group says ok and runs on ahead. Jonathon heads back to sit and wait for help with Abu. Jonathon keeps encouraging him to drink more water.

Thirty minutes later, emergency personnel show up with medical first aid equipment. They immediately put an oxygen mask on him and give him a shot of penicillin. They load him on stretcher and carry him out of the woods and put him in the ambulance.

One of the EMT’s tells Jonathon,“Good work. He was in a lot of pain and did not need to keep walking. You did the right thing keeping him still and giving him lots of water.”

Despite the encouragement, Jonathon felt horrible as he watched the ambulance pull away with Abu in it. What was going to happen to his friend?

Scene 3:
The following Wednesday, Jennifer, Kim, Phillip, Marcus, and Jonathon are sitting in detention after school.

“Thanks a lot Jennifer”, Marcus sneers, scratching his arm. “Not only did that little short cut get us detention, but I got poison ivy too”.

“Yeah, and I got tons of mosquito bites AND I found a tick on my leg!” Phillip claimed.

Jennifer, trying to switch their attention, turns to Jonathon. “Have you talked to Abu since the field trip? she asked.

Before Jonathon can reply, Marcus interrupted with “That boy is just a wimp. He’s so small and he’s always getting out of PE class.”

Kim points out that Abu’s little sister, who is in the same class as her little sister never attends PE either. “Maybe it’s a cultural thing,” she says.

“What if Abu is really sick?” asked Phillip, “and what if we get it next!”

“Yeah” says Jennifer “ and we all ate that food together that his folks brought in for the cultural fair last week in social studies.”

Jonathon finally tells the group, “I’m actually going to see him this afternoon. He’s still in the hospital so I thought I’d go and try to cheer him up.”

“Wow, the hospital. I didn’t realize it was that serious,” says Marcus sheepishly.

“Man, I wouldn’t go, he might breathe on you!!!” Phillip told Jonathon. “You don’t want to get whatever messed him up on the field trip!”

Session 2: Scene 3:
Jonathon’s sister drops him off at the hospital after school. Because he’s a little scared of catching Abu’s illness he hesitates outside of Abu’s door. Abu sees him and waves at him to come into his room.

“You don’t have to be afraid,” Abu tells him, his voice muffled from the oxygen mask he’s wearing. “I’m not contagious. My sister and I have both dealt with this blood disorder all of our lives. You can ask the doctor if you want to.”

The doctor was reading some measurements from the heart monitor. “It's completely safe,” said the doctor “he’s not contagious and I’m sure he would enjoy some company.”

Scene 4:

Jonathon walks into the hospital room where Abu is lying propped up on pillows watching TV. Jonathon notices a large, oozy sore on Abu’s right leg and feels awkward seeing his friend hooked up to all sorts of machines.

Session 3: Scene 5:
Abu is released from the hospital the day after Jonathon’s visit. Jonathon visits Abu at home, bringing him his school assignments. Abu notices that Mrs. Worsham has assigned a team project due in two weeks.

“Hey” says Abu “My illness would fit with this project. Why don’t we present it together to the class as our team project?”

Jonathon says, “That’s a great idea. How should we start?”

Abu digs in a trunk at the foot of his bed. “We could start with this,” he said, holding up a large sheet of paper. “My doctor in Nigeria made it for my family so we could understand why my sister and I were sick, even though my parents and my older brother weren’t.”

Scene 6:
Two weeks later, Abu and Jonathon are in front of Mrs. Worsham’s class presenting their team project. Abu is looking healthy and is full of energy.

Abu begins the presentation with a normal blood cell. “For most of you, this is what your blood is made of and how your blood cells look. My blood cells normally look like this too. But when I get sick, my some of my blood cells look like this”.


Abu and Jonathon continue their presentation. As a special addition to their project they have invited Abu’s doctor to come and speak to the class about why sickle cell happens and how it can be managed.

Case Author:
Suzy Sumrall
Angela Wade
Janel Chatraw Emory University:Center for Science Education
Molly Embree
Amy Webb

Case Analysis

Learning Issues from Session 1:

  1. Is Abu’s condition infectious or genetic or some other?
        Objective: Define infectious disease
        Objective: Define genetic disorder
        Objective: Distinguish between infectious and noninfectious diseases
  2. What are possible infectious diseases?
        Objective: Identify common infectious diseases, their symptoms, their pathogenic agent and some modes of transmission.
  3. What are possible noninfectious diseases?
        Objective: identify how one acquires a noninfectious diseases (asthma, allergies, genetic disorders)
        Objective: Identifies organs and functions of the involved systems
  4. Identify common diseases and cultural practices of Nigeria
  5. What is penicillin? How does it work?

Learning Issues from Session 2:

  1. What systems are responsible for the transport and delivery of oxygen to various parts of the body?
        Objective: Identify the organs and functions of the respiratory system and the mechanisms of breathing
        Objective: Identify the organs and functions of the circulatory system
        Objective: Identify the role of blood, blood cells, and hemoglobin in transporting oxygen.
        Objective: Discuss how the respiratory and circulatory system are interrelated to perform the task of oxygen transport
  2. What are some current medical technologies that are used by hospitals to monitor patients, to perform diagnostic tests, and to administer treatments

Learning Issues from Session 3:

  1. What is a pedigree and how is it used to understand hereditary diseases?
        Objective: Read and understand a pedigree objective: Use a pedigree to predict future probabilities of disease
  2. What is the pattern of inheritance for sickle cell disease?
        Objective: Understand and apply terms such as recessive, dominant, allele, trait, phenotype, carrier, pedigree, inheritance
  3. Why and how does sickle cell disease affect oxygen delivery and cause "sickle cell crisis"?
  4. What type of things can persons with sickle cell do to remain "crisis free"
  5. What is a genetic counselor and what types of schooling must a person have to be a genetic counselor objective: explore careers and criteria for careers in science.

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


Skills to be developed

Personal Skills (attitudes)
1.   Listening
2.   Communicating
3.   Predicting
4.   Inferring
5.   Analyzing
6.   Hypothesizing
7.   Collaborating

Content Skills:
1.   Genetic diseases differ from infectious diseases


Georgia Qcc's for middle school life science:

 1:   Scientific Inquiry Processes -- including experimenting, constructing hypotheses and drawing conclusions

 4:   Reference Skills: uses multiple types of print and nonprint sources of information

 7:   Living Things / Human Body : respiratory and circulatory systems including the organs and body functions related to the respiratory and circulatory systems

 9:   Health Care technology: the impact of practices and technologies on the improvement of health

11:   Genetics: Principles of heredity and inherited traits and genetic disorders


Investigations and Activities

Reading Abu's family pedigree and making predictions about the probability of disease for Abu's children.



Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

1. sickle_c.gif
2. sicklecell.gif


Student Products

Students are asked to create a pamphlet about Sickle Cell using informatation they have learned from the case. The pamphlet will be "adopted" by a children's hospital and will be geared to children and parents of children with sickle cell.
Students should include the following in their pamphlet: Genetics of sickle cell, systems affected by sickle cell, how specific systems are affected during a crisis, management of sickle cell (to prevent a crisis), and Atlanta area resources for people with sickle cell.

Infomercial about sickle cell Group Product: Team Portfolio: Students will complete a collaborative portfolio that will contain the data, analysis, hypothesis, and learning issues generated from each session, their research presentations to the group, references and graphics used, process of elimination used to narrow focus of case direction, further questions the group would like to explore, a completed group exam, and their student/group product. Group case creation

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Group Dynamic Evaluation:
Students will evaluate themselves and the other individuals in the group using a 1-5 scale for each of the following group interaction criteria (1 being excellent adherence to critera)

  1. Listened to directions
  2. Stayed on task
  3. Listened as the case was read
  4. Volunteered to read parts of the case
  5. Participated in brainstorming ideas about the case
  6. Researched the assigned topic
  7. Reported research findings to the group
  8. Listened to others in the group
  9. Did not interrupt others while they reported research or shared ideas
  10. Worked quietly in my group
  11. Participated in preparing the student product

Student Product Evaluation: rubric to be added
Group evaluation: team portfolio
Group evaluation: case -- students will be provided the first scene of a case and must create their own case and learning objectives.



Course name:
7th grade Life Science
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Human body / health sequence
Time during term:
2 weeks
students will have already been introduced to genetics
Students in course:
7th grade; honors, intermediate, special ed
Collaborative elements:
Additional notes:



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