Before Strategy/Engage: 25 minutes
1. The teacher should show the following video clip to students. As students watch the video clip, they should form an opinion on the overall positive or negative impact of introducing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our food supply.
Video clip: "Classical vs. Transgenic Breeding" from Frontline/Nova documentary "Harvest of Fear"
2. After watching the video clip, the teacher should ask students to form three lines within the classroom. One line will represent the students who believe that GMOs have a mostly positive impact, one line will represent the students who believe GMOs have a mostly negative impact, and one line will represent the students who have a neutral opinion on the topic. The teacher may ask students to share their detailed opinion about GMOs with their classmates.
3. The teacher should divide students into groups of two to four students each. The teacher should show the first three slides from the "GMO PowerPoint" that can be found under Essential Files on "Genetically Modified Crops" from agclassroom.org. The teacher may allow students to discuss the questions found on the slides with their group members.
4. Next, the teacher should give each group of students one set of "Food Label Cards" from agclassroom.org. With their group members, students should divide their cards into two stacks: one stack that includes foods that definitely do not have GMOs and one stack that includes foods that may have GMOs.
5. After students have approximately five minutes to sort their cards, the teacher should display the fourth slide of the PowerPoint. This slide lists the ten crops that are currently approved for genetic modification. With their group members, students should re-sort their card stacks into non-GMO and possibly-GMO foods.
6. After students have had additional time to re-sort their card stacks, the teacher should provide the correct category for each food. According to "Genetically Modified Crops" from agclassroom.org, the food label cards fit into the following categories:
- Foods that could have GMOs: Soymilk (soybean), cinnamon crunch cereal (sugar could be from sugar beet), rice milk (canola oil), wheat bread (sugar and soybean oil), pita bread (sugar with unspecified source, canola/soybean oil), and margarine (canola and soybean oil).
- Foods that currently do not have GMOs: 2% milk, graham crackers, clementines, yogurt, mango baby food, banana baby food, flax seed, rye flour, wheat flour, sweetener, sugar (this label specifies it is from sugar cane plant), shredded wheat, tea, coffee beans, rice, orange juice, sour cream, and cottage cheese.
- Note to teacher: The two primary sources of table sugar are the sugar cane plant and the sugar beet. Many food labels list "cane sugar." Cane sugar or sugar cane is not an approved GM crop. If it does not specify, it could be from either plant. It could be genetically modified if it came from a sugar beet.
7. The teacher should ask the students the following questions and allow the students to discuss their answers with their group members: Based on this list, have you eaten foods that contain GMOs? Were you aware that you were eating foods with GMOs?
Note: The teacher may show the rest of the slides on the PowerPoint, if time allows or if students require additional background information on GMOs.
During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 45 minutes
Note: The teacher may wish for students to work individually, in partners, or in groups for the remainder of the lesson. Depending on the students' abilities, the teacher may wish to read one article and take notes on the graphic organizer as a whole class, before allowing students to complete this task individually or cooperatively.
1. Students will need access to the articles listed in the materials section. Students may use a printed copy of the article or access the article online using an internet-capable device.
2. Students will read the articles while completing the "Debatable Issues" graphic organizer from the New York Times. This graphic organizer will require students to research the usage of GMOs in America's food crops and list the "Pros" (positive impacts) and "Cons" (negative impacts) of this technology.
After Strategy-Explain & Elaborate-45+ minutes
1. The teacher should explain that students will now take a stand on the topic of genetically modified organisms. This can match their opinion from the before strategy, or students may take a different side from their previous opinion.
2. The teacher should give each student a copy of the "RAFT Writing Template" from readwritethink.org. The teacher should tell each student their role is a "Farmer", the audience is their "Employees", the format is an an "Argumentative speech", and the topic is the "Impact of genetically modified organisms in food crops". The students will take on the role of a farmer, writing an argumentative speech that will be presented to their employees, to convince them of the positive or negative impact of using genetically modified organisms on their farm.
3. Before students begin their writing project, the teacher should show students the rubric that will be used to grade their final RAFT writing assignment (see attachments). The teacher should discuss his or her specific expectations for each student's final product.
4. Students can focus on one of the four following crops in their argumentative speech by using the linked articles to learn additional information about the impacts of genetically modifying each crop. Alternatively, students can choose a different type of crop and perform their own research using the internet or other available resources.
5. After students complete their RAFT writing project, the teacher may wish for the students to present their argumentative speech to the class. To extend this activity, the teacher may allow students to dress up as a farmer or bring props to support their argument (such as the food product that will be discussed).