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!