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Bioengineered Foods?

Lesson Plans for grades 9-12

Secondary

Description

In this lesson, students compare the processes of selective breeding and transgenic manipulation of plants. They consider the pros and cons of growing genetically modified crops. They then explore the possible future consequences of genetically modified organisms. Finally, they analyze public opinion data about the use of genetically modified foods. As an optional activity, students explore genetics-inspired art and create their own artistic expressions about genetically modified foods

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The lesson wll help students strengthen their skills related to

  • identifying and organizing relevant information
  • critically analyzing information
  • constructing and defending a position on an issue

Strengths

The resource has students examine an issue that is both authentic and critical. A variety of media (video, interactive activities, art, print) is used to explore the complexity of the issue and allow student to construct their own position. The background information provided to the teacher is quite thorough. 

Weaknesses

The resource would benefit from the addittion of a concluding section that encourages students to consider the queston - Now that I know what I know, what am I going to do about it? - and provides some support in this regard.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The resource may be used in those courses and units dealing with

  • issues of food production and security (Agrirculture, Geography)
  • the relationship among science, technology and society (Science, Science and Technology)
  • human health and food production and consumption (Health)

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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        • Biology 30: Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
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        • Genes are the foundation for the diversity of living things
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        • Science for Citizens 11:Scientific processes and knowledge inform our decisions and impact our daily lives
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        • Anatomy and Physiology 12: Gene expression, through protein synthesis, is an interaction between genes and the environment
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        • Geographic Issues of the 21 st Century: Food from the Land
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        • Agriculture 11: Foods
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        • Biology 11(College Prep.) Plants in the Natural Environment
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        • Applied Science 701A: Decisions and Perspectives
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        • Field Crop Production 20 : Overall Expectations
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    • Grade 10
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        • Genes are the foundation for the diversity of living things
    • Grade 11
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science for Citizens 11:Scientific processes and knowledge inform our decisions and impact our daily lives
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Anatomy and Physiology 12: Gene expression, through protein synthesis, is an interaction between genes and the environment
        • Specialized Science 12: Our evolving understanding of genetics has implications for health, society, and environment

Themes Addressed

  • Economics (1)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Biodiversity
  • Food & Agriculture (5)

    • Aquaculture
    • Biotechnology
    • Conventional Farming
    • Food Security
    • Pesticides
  • Governance (1)

    • Government Regulations
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

    • Fisheries
  • Science and Technology (1)

    • Appropriate Technology

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Using a combination of videos (Classical vs. Transgenc Breeding; Super Salmon) and web activities (Engineer a Crop: Transgenic Manipulation; Should We Grow GM Crops; Guess What's Coming to Dinner?) and a final dicussion section, students explore the competing arguments related to transgenic breeding. A concluding segment(the discussion section) has students identify the arguments for and against genetic modification of food, list the pros and cons, and report to the class the number of contributors who are for and against GM foods.  

Certain of the comments in the discussion section also alert students to the issue of balance coverage of ths particular controversial topic. 

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

The combination of videos, web activities, and particularly the discussion forum serve to collectively introduce students to the range of issues that are part of the GMO debate. These include health concerns, food security in an expanding world population, the relative merits of sustainable agriculture and corporate farming, the nature of an R&D economy, government regulations, and corporate ethics. The weight students and others attach to these issues will determine whether GM foods are regarded as the solution or the problem.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The range of views presented in the lesson serve to underline the complexity of the issue. Students are made aware of the economic considerations or the business of food, the debate over appropriate technology, the need to be aware of the hidden wiring when we tinker with nature, and the degree to whch we are what we eat.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The lesson plan provdes the opportunity but not the direction for students to educate others in their school and community as to the relative merits of transgenc manpulaton of our foods Following each of the videos or activities students are asked to discuss and sort out their opinion on the issues raised - whether corn should be genetically modified or not; whether transgenc manpulation is different from selective breeding; whether permission should be given to transgenic salmon - and to evaluate the arguments made on each side of the issue by the proponents and opponents of transgenic manipulation.

Students are further required to choose a bioengineered product and write a futuristc story about its introduction, use, and positive and negative impacts on society.

All of which is to suggest that students are likely to emerge from the lesson well informed and with strongly held views. The teacher can exploit this by suggesting any number of activites that take the new learning outsde the classroom.  

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

While not explicit, the lesson does provide an opportunity for values clarificaton. A number of value questions arise naturally from the material presented. Students might consider what limits if any should society place on scientific experiment and application? what is appropriate technology? what is the role of government regulations in a free enterprise society?

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Not relevant to the goals of the lesson plan.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

The lesson s primarily an intellectual exercise focused on raising the student's consiousness of a critical issue, having them think about the relative merits of the competing arguments, and arriving at a position through critical analysis.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The issue of transgenic foods is relevant at the individual, local, national and global level. Students will recognize that the food we eat is important to their well-being and the way it is produced has consequences both environmentally and economically for society as a whole The topic is both authentic and current..

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

The lesson compares past practices of selective breeding with current practices of transgenic manipulation of genes and asked student to imagine and write about a future in which transgenic foods are part of our diet

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

The central question of the lesson is- Should we welcome or challenge the introduction of transgenic foods? Students are not provided with an answer but with the help of various videos and activities are made aware of the complexity of the issue and the arguments made by supporters and opponents in order that they may arrive at their own position on the issue. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good

Any answer to the question as to the viability and reliability of transgenic foods requires that students and teachers consider the science involved in gene manipulaton (Science), the challenges in feeding and expanding world population (Economics, Social Studies), the role of government in regulating the food industry (Political Science), the possible impact of consuming GMO foods (Health), and the environmental consequences of altering what we traditionally grow (Environmental Science). 

An optional component asks students to review examaples of "genetic art" and choose a medium to express their response to what they have learned about the genetic engineering of foods. (Art)

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students are presented with an authentic question- Should we be consuming transgenic foods? The answer is theirs to construct. The information required to have an informed opinion is provided in a series of videos, essays, and activities. Most interesting is the activity in which students are asked the same question seven times. "Based upon what you now know, do you think we should raise genetically modified (GM) crops"? Depending on how they respond, a counterargument will be presented and only at the end are they shown all 12 arguments for an against.

Another feature is the Harvest of Fear website, which includes viewers' comments on the entire program. Students review these and construct a list of pros and cons based on their reading. 

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Very Good

While not suggesting that students avoid those learning strategies they struggle with, the lesson does makes use of a range of materials that allow for a variety of learning styles. The videos ( Bt Corn;Classical vs Transgenic Breeding;Super Salmon) will appeal to the visual learners. Those who learn best by doing will benefit from the interactive activities included (Engineer a Crop: Trangenic Manipulation; Guess What's Coming to Dinner?).  Those who are at home with the wrtten word will be comfortable with the document, Viewpoints: Harvest of Fear and the background essays that accompany each of the videos and activities. 

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

Each of the three activities simulates a real life issue or choice. Engineering a Crop: Transgenic Manipulation allows students to play the role of geneticist in creating a "supercrop" using  all of the latest technologies.  Guess What's Coming to Dinner reveals GM foods already on our plate and Should We Grow GM Crops? invites students to participate in a poll after considering the arguments for and against growing geneticall modified foods.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

The lesson provides a number of opportunities for student cooperation in learning. Students work in teams to examine seed catalogues to identify specific characteristics for which plants  have been bred and to study and report on the public opinon data presented in the Harvest of Fear website. Working in pairs, students view the Bt Corn video and discuss whether or not they think corn should be genetically modified and why. 

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

The emphasis is on formative evaluation. Each video viewing or interactive activity is followed by a discussion to determine student understanding of and reaction to what they have seen, heard or done. Questions provided range from the factual - What allows  transgenic salmon to grow in winter? - to the opinon-based - Do you think the FDA should give Aqua Bounty permission to grow and sell transgenic salmon?

Team reports to the class provide a modicum of opportunity for summative reporting.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

Opportunities for peer teaching emerge from the team assigment requiring students to review and report on data provided and in the pairing of students to exchange their reactions to the positions taken by those interviewed in the videos.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

Several case studies are presented that help students weigh the merits of GMOs. In the Bt Corn video, students learn how insertion of a given gene prevents hostile takeover by pests but runs the risk of creating new pests that are resistant to the gene. The video segment Super Salmon focuses on the work of Aqua Bounty Farms, which have genetically modified salmon to grow faster using a gene from another fish but present risks to the wild salmon population. 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

The lesson is quite structured but this should not be regarded as a failing. The structure is essential if students are to recognize the issues involved and to emerge with an informed opinon. Once this is in place, the creative teacher might encourage a variety of follow up projects that would allow students to pursue a partcular interest or example of GM foods. 

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.