Stealing Lesson Plans from the President

Thanks to President Obama’s executive order on stem cell research, I have found myself with too much lesson and not enough time to teach it in. When I wrote about my nervousness teaching science, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be teaching this, and certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of the veritable abandon with which I’ve been throwing myself into it.  I’d like to think my aunt would be pleased and proud to hear me in class these days, talking about cell division and Krabbe’s Leukodystrophy and cryogenics cell banks and peripheral blood systems and such like. 

I’ve had to do a lot of homework, but it’s been fun and interesting.  This is a topic I’ve wanted to know more about, but haven’t given myself the time to study.  And I now know so much more about stem cells than I ever did before … which has led to me having many more questions than I had before.  The same has been true for my students.  We’ve been having wonderfully dynamic discussions and wandering off on interesting tangents.

My favorite tangents so far: talking about brain function (quick! I run to my office during break to do a rapid-fire search for images of the brain and some basic written info), talking about the fertility industry (quick! I run to my office and look up some stats), talking about genetics (quick! I run to my office and open the doc I created for the genetics lesson I was going to work on later in the unit and grab a few key ideas to share), talking about cloning.

This last  has been very interesting.  I wouldn’t have guessed how completely people associate cloning with stem cell research.  Now that I’ve had four or five different cloning conversations, I can see the ways they are connected in people’s minds, I just wasn’t on that page before.  The conversations I’ve had in both classes have eventually turned to cloning and people’s fantasies/worries/fears about all that it could mean.  (Yes, there really is always someone in the group who thinks it would be a great idea to have a clone farm somewhere … in the middle of nowhere … where we could be growing clones to kill off for organ donation!  I cannot say how much this troubles me.  Apparently it was a Jessica Alba movie.)

I owe a little thank you to my president.  I was feeling nearly frozen about starting the science unit, and — although stem cells were never more than a mention as part of that unit — his decision to renew research funding threw me into the work without me having time to fret over it and worry myself into an inability to teach.  We’ve had such animated discussions, and all of us walk away with more questions.  When I said at the end of this morning’s conversation that we were pretty much done with stem cells, there was actually a moan of disappointment!

Oh yes, we’re having some fun now!

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7 thoughts on “Stealing Lesson Plans from the President

  1. molly

    Fantastic! This is a really great accomplishment. Whatever your students may or may not understand or remember about stem cells, genetics, brain function, etc., they will always remember the excitement of an INFORMED exchange of ideas, thoughts, theories, opinions. And that is what it is all about. And you did it. Congratulations.

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  2. I just reconnected with my sixth grade teacher thanks to some childhood friends and facebook. The comments: myself and other classmates sang his praise. He taught us so much about science and ecology. To this day, I still find myself saying, “Mr. Ephriam said that…”

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  3. molly

    I thought over what I wrote in my comment, and want to add that I also think it is really cool that they learned so much science and that you studied so much to be able to teach it. I am very impressed by the fact they you got them so involved in the excitement of learning, regardless of the content, but of course the content is important, too.

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  4. Good for you for learning all that stuff and introducing your students to it. (I wonder if the Jessica Alba thing was the series Dark Angel, in which the government bred children to have certain genetic characteristics. I watched every episode on DVD not long ago and quite enjoyed it, but I’m with you on finding the idea of really doing that dreadful.)

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  5. I’m still surprised by how much I’ve learned and how easily I’ve been able to turn all of that into lesson plans for my classes. I think all of us are feeling much more able to hold our own in this debate now, which is cool.

    Molly– I agree that the students’ experience of having these discussions has been as important as what we’ve been learning. Pushing them to have a real discussion, to have to weight differing views and look at the research and draw conclusions has been a great experience for all of us.

    Linda– I loved Dark Angel and added it to my Netflix queue not too long ago. I wondered if that was the reference, too, but they insisted there was a movie. TV or movie, the idea is creepy!

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