Jurassic Park: The Science and Ethics of Genetic Engineering
1994 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute
Jurassic Park, the unit, is an extensive use of a cross-curricular teaching event. Planned for AP Biology, English and Calculus students, students and teachers were involved for 4-6 weeks. The Biology II students had completed an extensive study of Mendelian and molecular genetics, allowing them to serve as scientific consultants for the non-science students. The unit has four distinct sections as outlined below.
- I. Teacher Motivation: Connect content with students' personal value systems. All students meet together to explore the introduction of the book and distinguish fact from fiction. The English classes discuss the foreshadowing and creation of suspense as a literary technique. The topic of chaos is introduced by the fractal diagrams.
- II. Concept Formation: As the students read the book, an overview of evolution is presented to establish the historical framework and current theories. Chaos theory development is explored. Biology and Calculus teachers visit each English class twice a week to lead discussion. Bio II students begin extensive study of Evolution. All Calculus students are enrolled in one or both of the other classes.
- III. Experimentation: As the students complete the book, a brief overview of Mendelian and molecular genetics prepares them for a study of recombinant technology. Students examine karyotypes, molecular lab results and review the scope of the Human Genome Project. The integration of fractals and the potential chaos of genetic engineering is explored.
- IV. Integration: In order to apply their accumulated knowledge, the students meet with all of the teachers in the English classes to debate the ethics of genetic engineering and explore the relationship between religion and science.
This unit was evaluated by individual teachers for their course content requirements; however, the most authentic assessment of student learning came from the debates. The synthesis of ideas, the ability of students to reevaluate current concepts, curiosity about genetic engineering and the enthusiasm generated was phenomenal. Students outside these classes would stop to talk about the book, genetics, dinosaurs, and the movie. The personal and academic benefits for teachers and students were some of our best educational moments.
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
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