Stem Cells or Cloning - You are the Expert!

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SWBAT develop an argumentative essay on the topics of either stem cells or cloning based on research

Big Idea

Stem cells and cloning are topics that are frequently in the news; but what do we know about these controversial topics?

The Need for the Lesson

There are potential benefits to the continued scientific research surrounding stem cells and cloning but student are surrounded with news reports, television shows and movies that can present misinformation and biases.

Students have explored the basics of stem cells and cloning. In this lesson they are challenged to dig a little deeper into one of the topics, building the foundations for further understanding they will need to evaluate new information and develop their need to know more information as they become decision making adults.

Investigation Preparation & Summary

5 minutes

This lesson challenges students to dig a little deeper into their understanding of the facts and controversy surrounding stem cells and cloning. The learning extends just beyond the standards as students apply their understanding of cells and genetics beyond the classroom to learn more about the controversial topics in the news today. (MS-LS1-1Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.)(MS-LS3-2 - Develop and use a model to describe why asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.)

Students will be researching stem cells or cloning and using evidence found in research to support their understanding of one of these controversial topics. (WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.) (SP7Engaging in argument from evidence.)

Students in Action

135 minutes

Students have completed a Stem Cell Web Quest and a Cloning Web Quest. Their goal in completing the web quests on stem cells and cloning was to gain a general understanding about each of these current issues in genetics. 

I tell the students that they have enough information about stem cells and cloning to participate in a discussion or understand a news report about either issue.

Today students are selecting one of the topics to examine further. I challenge the students to learn enough about one of the topics so that they can lead a discussion. 

I instruct students to research and write an essay where they share two advantages of either stem cells or cloning and one disadvantage. To jump start the research process, I provide selected printed articles about each topics. Why provide printed copies? Even though my students have some familiarity with the topics, this is new material and the vocabulary and information may be hard to understand. A printed copy allows students to highlight main ideas and take additional notes as needed to clarify their own understanding.

Links to the articles can be found in the resources section - Cloning & Stem Cell Research Suggested Sites. Students can also complete additional research online.

In this lesson, I tell students they will not be required to produce a formal bibliography, however, they need to acknowledge the source of their information. We brain storm some ways we might acknowledge our sources.

according to a recent article...

recently published in...

states that...

information from...

I provide students copies of a Augmentative Graphic Organizer and Argumentative Essay Writing Boxes to use if needed. The graphic organizer is a handy form for organizing big ideas and notes. The document is a foldable that helps students write a 5-paragraph essay. The writing boxes are used for write the rough draft. At the beginning of the year, some students struggle to write complete paragraphs so this form helps them with their rough draft. Even though many of my students are good writers in their language arts class, the idea of formal writing in science class is foreign and students need support. I want my students to focus on the science content and not worry about the structure of the essay so I provide as much support as possible to help students be successful.

We have written several essays this year in class. Almost all students elect not to use the support materials. The expectations are clear and practice has lead students to develop a routine that makes the formal writing second nature.

In the following video, I share how to use the foldable graphic organizer.