The Life and Times of Henrietta Lacks

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Objective

Students will utilize computer technology and multimedia to research topics related to a specific era in US History construct an online, interactive poster displaying historical images, text and sounds from the 1950’s and articulate the significance of their research and multimedia project during a presentation to their peers and/or learning community.

Big Idea

Popular culture as a great influence on the pace of innovation and discovery in science.

Introduction

5 minutes

In the fifties, the nuclear family was the rule and not the exception and while most family units demonstrated great unity and prosperity, not all citizens were benefiting from our democratic ideals, due to enforced segregation laws that treated blacks as second-class citizens. It was an age of fierce civil pride, when America accepted its role as the leading superpower for democracy with vigor, even
though many groups within its own borders were disenfranchised and disillusioned. In this
activity students take a closer look into the events of the time period of the 1950’s in an effort
to gain a deeper understanding of an era that shaped the life and times of Henrietta Lacks.

Objective(s):

1. Utilize computer technology and multimedia to research topics related to a specific era in US History.
2. Construct an online, interactive poster displaying historical images, text and sounds from the 1950’s.
3. Articulate the significance of their research and multimedia project during a presentation to their peers and/or learning community.

National Biotechnology Standards:

BT.7.3 Compare and contrast attitudes about the use of biotechnology regionally, nationally, and internationally.

BT.8.3  Explain that further understanding of scientific problems relies on the design and execution of new experiments which may reinforce or weaken opposing explanations. 

Engage

5 minutes

Engage (Activate Student Thinking)

Show students commercials, movie and television clip from the 1950’s. Discuss how life must have been for a teenager in the 1950’s. I like to begin this lesson with very little prompting. Instead, with the use of carefully selected media, I enable the student to be transported to the era in which Henrietta Lacks lived and where the accounts found within the text, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks took place. 

Based on the dominant images seen in the print media and television commercials, would you infer that these popular images properly illustrate the 1950's America of Henrietta Lacks and her family? Why or why not? 

For an excellent brief history of print media and marketing ads from the 1950's students and teachers can visit the following blog article, 1950's Illustration: When Mass Media Met Pop Culture, for a quick immersion into the culture of the 50's. If time permits, an unlikely website which seeks to provide a history of farming in the United States, Wessles Living History Farm, is a great resource for providing a more comprehensive look into this exciting era. Finally, a 10 or 15-minute video a classic 1950's commercials can be viewed via YouTube at http://youtu.be/4hpLWWgwuYQ and http://youtu.be/ckjIbT1bUos

Explore

30 minutes

Explore (Guided/Student-Centered Activity)

1. Have students create an account on www.glogster.com.

2. Assign a group of 3-4 students a year to research from the decade 1950 to 1959 (Please see sample student glogster).

3. Instruct each group to choose at least 3 of the following topics to represent on their glogster: Medicine, Politics, Law, Pop Culture, TV, Military, Art/Music, Civil Rights, World History, and Fashion.

Explain

20 minutes

Explain (Formulate Ideas)

After the completion of each groups glogster, students should present their project to the class by leading a discussion in which they articulate the significance of their research focus and its correlation to the text, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Elaborate

30 minutes

Elaborate (Apply and Extend Understanding)

Students can be assigned the task of creating a traditional timeline using the official Reader's Guide Timeline of events prepared by the author, Rebecca Skloot. As included in the glogster multimedia project, students can include events from other fields such as US History, World History, Politics, Art/Music, Law, Civil Rights, Medicine and the Military that they may have not explored previously.

Evaluate

10 minutes

Evaluate (Monitor Understanding)

Ask students to write their response to the following exit slip topics, “How was the decade of the 1950’s different than now? What similarities do you believe may exist between life in the 1950’s and your life and times today?” “How did the era in which Henrietta Lacks live influence the level of healthcare she received for illness?”