Stem Cells - The Debate Goes On
Lesson 2 of 18
Objective: SWBAT illustrate the function of stem cells and identify both sides of the the stem cell debate.
This lesson should be taught once students have been exposed to cellular specialization/differentiation and levels of organization. This lesson emphasizes the idea that the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells. (MS-LS1-3).
To engage students I have them close their eyes while I read the following statement:
“Imagine you live in a time and place where people no longer suffer from diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, organ failure, or Alzheimer’s. Imagine that spinal cords can be replaced and that most forms of paralysis have been eliminated. Imagine that nerves, muscles, and even badly burned skin can be regenerated and replaced. Now imagine that the source of this technology comes from something that can’t be seen with the human eye. While it might sound like space-age technology that we see in science fiction books and movies, imagine that it could actually be a reality.”
Now I have students open their eyes, but do not allow them to speak. I ask them to consider (silently) and answer each of the three questions below with the first ideas that come to mind.
Read each question individually and give students approximately 60 seconds to record their ideas.
1. How would this type of medicine/technology change the quality of life for human beings?
2. How much would you be willing to pay for this kind of medicine/technology?
3. Are there any negative effects that could be caused by having this kind of medicine/technology?
After the silent think-quick write, we have a whole class discussion over the questions. Next, I show this fascinating video of Anthony Atala, speaking to the topic Growing New Organs, from TED talks. He discusses the concept of Growing Organs using STEM Cells.
Depending on your class length, you may want to preview the video and select clips. I show the entire 17 minutes because Dr. Anthony Atala's work is fascinating, and relevant for my students and myself.
While students are watching the video, I provide students with the following guiding questions:(I pause video to discuss these questions during video)
- Why do we have an organ storage?
- A patient dies from diseases that could be treated with tissue replacement every how many seconds?
- What can salamanders do?
- Your bones regenerate every _________ years.
- Your skin regenerates every _________ weeks.
- True or False: Can your body regenerate.
- Draw the process of removing tissue from an organ to extract and grow patients cells.
- Blood vessels are made up of how many cells? what are they?
In the next section of lesson I have students explore Learn.Genetics which contains a very thorough learning module on Stem Cells. The objective of this activity is to introduce and expose students to stem cells.
I particularly put emphasis on the following parts of the module:
1) The Nature of Stem Cells - introduces students to stem cells in a kid friendly way with interactive slides which allows student to learn at their own pace.
2) Stem Cell Quick Reference - explains the different type of stem cells in particular their origin, potential use for therapy, and the controversy over some of them.
3) GO, GO, Stem Cells - interactive demo that allows students to send activating signals to stem cells and see them work.
4) The Stem Cell Debate: Is it Over ? - introduces students to reasons behind the stem cell debate
In this section of the lesson I show the students the What Are Stem Cells video, by Craig A. Kohn (TEDEd), which does a good job of explaining and answering the question, "What are stem cells?"
Following the video, students complete What are Stem Cells?, which assesses student learning.
Students answer first 5 questions while video is running, and then answer final open response question at end of video. This creates greater accountability to watch the video, insures students are gathering information that is delivered primarily auditorily, and creates notes that can be used reliably for reference later on.
After students have fully grasped the science behind stem cells they are ready to delve deeper into the stem cell debate.
1) We revisit Learn.Genetics to read The Stem Cell Debate: Is It Over?
- I use the Close Reading Procedure as a reading strategy.
2) Have a class discussion over the ethical questions that stem cell research has raised:
- Does life begin at fertilization, in the womb, or at birth?
- Is a human embryo equivalent to a human child?
- Does a human embryo have any rights?
- Might the destruction of a single embryo be justified if it provides a cure for a countless number of patients?
- Since ES cells can grow indefinitely in a dish and can, in theory, still grow into a human being, is the embryo really destroyed?
3) I hand each student a copy of the following handout Stem Cell Debate which contains a Pro and Con stance to the debate.
4) To have a structured class discussion where students are at the center I conduct a philosophical chair which requires students to take a stance on the debate.
5) Students will create an informative and scientific Pro or Con STEM Cell poster in the following section of lesson (see Evaluate section of lesson).
Teacher Note: It's important to make sure students understand that this topic will never have a correct answer because the answer is at a crossroad between facts and one's personal values. The job of a scientist is to communicate the facts to the people and it's the job of the people to use those facts to make decisions that may go along with their values or at times challenge them.
In the final part of the lesson I show students the following two comic strips which represent the two sides of the stem cell debate.
Together, we analyze the messages found in each of the comic strips. Students are expected to use the claim - evidence - reasoning format in explaining their thinking.
Students are now required to create a poster that is either for or against stem cell research.
The poster must include the following:
1) Clear Communicated Stance (Is it a Pro or Con Stem Cell Research Poster?).
2) Evidence for stance which answers the following question "Why am I or against Stem Cell Research? (Student is required to use evidence from lesson activities i.e. videos, Learn.Genetics, Stem Cell Debate handout). (W.7.1)(W.7.2.D - Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.)(W.7.9 -Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.)(RI.7.1-Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. (SP7 -Use an oral and written argument supported by evidence to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon.)
- Stem Cells can be used to create organs that will save the lives of patients who are waiting to receive organs. (Source: Growing Organs Video)
- Some Stem Cell research is done on human embryos which is the beginning of a new life. Source: Stem Cell Debate handout).
3) The poster must be scientific, meaning all claims made in poster should have evidence that supports claim with logical reasoning.