Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Venom: From Lethal to Lifesaving

Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

Teresa Randall, Heather Shaffery, Alexandra Parsons, Alonna Smith, Alonna Smith | Published: May 31st, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 6th, 7th, 8th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 160 minutes


In this lesson on the interdependence of science, engineering, and technology, students will use the example of snake venom to explore how natural resources can be used to make synthetic products that humans rely on. Students will learn and practice research strategies and evaluate sources. Finally, students will display their knowledge in the form of posters. This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included.

Essential Question(s)

What is the societal impact of creating synthetic materials from natural resources?



Students share their understanding of venomous snakes using the How I Know It strategy.


Students investigate what venom does to humans and how antivenom is made using the Card Sort strategy.


Students read an article about the production of antivenom, and learn about other human uses for natural venom, using the Jigsaw strategy.


Students develop an understanding of relevance, accuracy, bias, and reliability when selecting websites and articles for research. Given a list of synthetic materials, each student selects and researches a natural resource that is converted by humans into a new product.


Students create a poster about a natural resource converted by humans into a new product. Students peer review other student posters using the Gallery Walk strategy.


  • "Venom: From Lethal To Lifesaving" Lesson Slides

  • "We're Running Out of Antivenom" linked video

  • "This is What Snake Venom Does to Blood!" linked video

  • "How I Know It" handout

  • "Text Card Sort" and "Image Card Sort" activities (one of each set per student group)

  • "Antivenom: How It's Made and Why It's So Precious" linked article

  • "Biting Back" linked article

  • "How is Snake Antivenom Actually Produced?" linked article

  • "Identifying High-Quality Sites" PDF handout

  • "Gallery Walk Rubric" handout

  • Poster boards and craft supplies, or access to internet-enabled computers or laptops


Use the attached slide show to guide the lesson. Begin with slides 2 and 3, introducing students to the lesson and the Essential Question.

Continue to slide 5. Use the instructional strategy How I Know It to activate/elicit students' prior knowledge of venomous snakes. Pass out the attached How I Know It handout. Ask each student to write facts they know about snakes and venom inside the circle. On the outside of the circle, ask them to write how they know the facts.

"How I Know It" example.

After students complete the How I Know It handout, have them share out with elbow partners.

Go to slide 6. Show students the first 41 seconds of the video "We're Running Out of Antivenom." Prompt students to answer the following questions:

  1. Why does this matter?

  2. Why should we care?


Go to slide 8. Show the video "This Is What Snake Venom Does to Blood!"

Place students in groups of three, then prompt them with the question: "How do you think antivenom is made?" Hand out the prepared Image Card Sort to student groups. Tell the students that these cards represent a very simplified view of the steps involved in making antivenom. Using the Card Sort instructional strategy, ask students to organize the cards into the order of the steps they think it takes to make antivenom. Instruct the students to either record the order in which they placed the cards, or put them somewhere they won't get rearranged while the students are completing the next activity.


Go to slide 10. Instruct students to read the "Antivenom: How It's Made and Why It's So Precious" article. Number students off 1 to 6. Using the Jigsaw instructional strategy, assign students to individually read one portion of the article based on their number. Do not group students up; instead, have them read individually first.

To help guide their reading, have students use the CUS and Discuss instructional strategy. As students read, they will circle new words, underline details to support main ideas, and star the main ideas. Move around the room and look at the words that students are circling. As the students finish reading, clarify some of the common words that you saw students circle. Ask for volunteers that might know what those words mean.

Go to slide 11. Once students have read their sections, invite them to group together based on their number and the section they read. In their number groups, have students discuss their section using what they underlined and starred. Each group will assign one spokesperson to share out the content of their reading passage.

Go to slide 12. Have students return to the groups with whom they organized their Venom Cart Sort images. Hand out the prepared Text Card Sort cards. Ask students to place the text cards with their matching image card. Inform students there are seven text cards and eight image cards, so students will have to use one of the text cards for two images. Have students revise the order of their cards now if they'd like to make any changes. Ask the groups if they made any changes. Allow those who did to share out what they changed and why. Go to slide 13. Reveal the correct order to the class.

Text card sort and image card sort answers.

Go to slide 14. Explain to the class that antivenom is a synthetic product that is made from a natural resource. Prompt students to answer the following questions:

  1. What does synthetic mean?

  2. What does natural mean?

Go to slide 15. Reveal to the class that human-made products are created to solve a problem and usually impact society and the environment. Prompt students to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you think of any human-made products that have a positive impact and how they are used?

  2. Can you think of any human-made products that have a negative impact and how they are used?

  3. Can you think of any human-made products that have both a positive and a negative impact? Explain how this can be the case.

Go to slide 16. Allow the students time to read through the slide while you point out a few examples of human-made products, the natural resource they are made from, and their use.


Go to slide 18. Hand out the attached Identifying High-Quality Sites checklist and discuss the components with students. Introduce students to concepts of reliability, accuracy, bias, and relevance.

Go to slide 19. Ask students to read the "Biting Back" article and the "How is Snake Antivenom Actually Produced?" article. Students will individually assess the reliability, credibility, accuracy, and bias of each article using the Identifying High-Quality Sites checklist. Have the students discuss their findings with their groups.


Go to slide 21. In their groups of three, invite students to research the production of other synthetic materials that are derived from natural resources and create a poster for that product. Go over the components that you expect to see in their finished product: the natural resource used, the derived synthetic material or product, how it's made, how it's used, the impact of the product on society, and citations of sources used. Pass out the Gallery Walk Rubric handout. Inform the students that this rubric will be used by their peers as they are viewing other groups' posters.

Go to slide 22. Using the Gallery Walk/Carousel instructional strategy, have students rotate throughout the room and evaluate other posters using the Gallery Walk Rubric.

Go to slide 23. Revisit students' How I Know It diagrams from earlier. Ask them to use a different ink color to add any new facts about snakes and venom to the inside of the circle and how they knew it to the outside. Inform students that they may also need to revise their information and sources from their original How I Know It if they confirmed information or had a misconception. Ask for volunteers to share out what they added as a result of what they learned in the lesson.

This activity will wrap up the lesson and remind students that there are multiple ways to add new and reliable information as they are researching other synthetic products that are derived from nature. Ask for 2-3 volunteers to share out what facts and sources they added and whether any of their information changed as a result of the lesson.

Example of revised "How I Know It" (note different ink color).