To GMO or not? That is the question... (Day #2 of 3)

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Students will make and defend a claim stating their position (i.e. argue) regarding the creation and use of genetically modified organisms with consideration of its pros and cons.

Big Idea

Biotechnology (and genetic engineering in particular) can produce changes that are helpful or harmful.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

Generally speaking students will understand that…

1. biotechnology (and genetic engineering in particular) can produce changes that are helpful or harmful.
2. every case of genetic engineering brings up social, ethical, legal, and moral questions.

Specifically, students will be able to …

1. make use of an annotation strategy to better understand and explain the key ideas being communicated in a scientific text. (Science Practice 8)
2. make and defend a claim stating their position (i.e. argue) regarding the creation and use of genetically modified organisms. (Science Practice 7)

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Link to Day #1 lesson...

Annotation Strategy: Today is perhaps the most cognitively challenging of the three day series simply for the fact that reading ranks high on the list of tasks that most students struggle with and lower on the list of "Yeah, if I could do any activity on Planet Earth, this would be it"!

However this is why we do it: "Being a critical consumer of science and the products of engineering, whether as a lay citizen or a practicing scientist...also requires the ability to read or view reports about science...arguments from explanations, and claims from evidence. All of these are constructs learned from engaging in a critical discourse around texts." A Framework for K-12 Science Education (p. 75)

Therefore, it might prove useful to remind students not only of the reason behind the reading (addressing the Essential Question) but also the details of this particular annotation process: 

Post-It #1: Main ideas of paragraphs

Post-It #2: Supporting details

Post-It #3:Vocabulary, definitions and the like

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

The following Teaching Challenges represent a recap of Day #1 and the rationale for what students will be doing today...

Teaching Challenge: How do I develop a classroom culture where students engage in meaningful and productive scientific discourse with peers?

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to persevere and grapple with complex tasks?

With respect to the first two challenges, I believe that a first step is taken by simply discussing issues that are current and relevant. Who doesn't have an opinion about society and the world at large and wants good and tasty food? A cursory glance at the GMO issue may not lead to a full appreciation of the multiple layers that this investigation requires if we are to do so with integrity.

Necessarily then, it starts at the "ground floor" (the simple introduction) and then progressively builds and spirals back on itself. Therefore, this three-part lesson serves as the capstone for this unit on genetic engineering. To start out, students considered whether certain GMO scenarios were fact or fiction. Then we navigated through the technical aspects of actually creating GMOs and now we are looking at the ethical, moral, social, and health dimensions of the debate. I believe that there is always a compulsion to race ahead quickly to "cover" breadth (due to the ever present time constraints we face) but instead must linger at the richer regions of the curriculum in order to develop depth and understanding. It is this focus that I am trying to achieve with this final bit of the unit. So when the complexity increases we must necessarily slow down or face the very real risk of "covering" material at the sake of meaningful and transformative understanding.

Teaching Challenge: How do I support my students to compose, communicate, and evaluate a clearly stated, evidence-based, compelling argument?

Lastly, the idea of arguments, evidence, and the lot are pretty well understood by the vast majority of high schoolers that I have met. But in this unit I want to lead them to a specific model for crafting the best product of their analytic and reasoning skills.

Day #2: Students will continue reading and annotating Genetically Modified Foods: Helpful or Harmful? By Deborah B. Whitman

I will provide the remainder of class for reading the first portion of the GMO article. As students read, I circulate and spot check reading progress and their use of the annotation strategies. As a measure of pacing, I regularly mark a line in the margin of the text that matches the students' spot at that time frame. I typically use a 7-10 minute interval. In this way, I can get a feel for how quickly students are reading and also communicating to students that there is an accountability measure for their performance.

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

Wrap-it Up: Request two or three students to summarize (2) pros and/or (2) cons to GMOs that they discovered from the article, time depending.

Link to Day #3 lesson...

Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

There is no specific extension assignment unless extra time is required for reading and annnotating the GMO article (in order to finish by the start of the next class).