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The Human Mind

Title: The Human Mind

Author: Jennifer Dwojakowski

Grade Level: 9-12

Subject/Content: Science / Biology

Summary of Lesson: Students will be introduced to the Nature vs. Nurture debate and be able to categorize human traits through examination of historical and present day scientific research.

Focus Question: What study tools do scientists use to uncover whether who we are is determined by our DNA or our environment?

Databases(s): Science Resource Center

Procedures:

Steps/Activities by teacher:

  1. Create a list on the board of human characteristics such as eye color, height, intelligence, weight, risk taking, profession, athletic ability, smoking etc.
  2. When students come into class, have them copy the list down onto a sheet of white paper.
  3. Instruct the students to label next to each characteristic whether they think the characteristic is a product of their DNA or is it shaped by their environment after birth.
  4. Have the students share their answers with someone close to them and place a check next to the ones that are different.
  5. Share out as a class. Discuss the ones that were most difficult to decide. Initiate a discussion about how scientists might be able to find out if these characteristics are genetic or environmental.
  6. If you have access to a twin study video such as Discovery Channels Mystery of Twins this would be a good place to insert it as a precursor to the remainder of the lesson.
  7. Lead students to discuss why throughout history, identical twins have been the preferred study tool for the great Nature vs. Nurture debate.
  8. Help students visualize the process by constructing a diagram on the board showing how a single fertilized egg splits to form two genetically identical individuals.
  9. Read aloud the following article to the class, Luft, Eric V. D. "Twin studies." World of Genetics. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002. Science Resource Center. Gale. 27 August 2006 from Gale’s Science Resource Center.
  10. Discuss why twin studies have been looked at historically as ethically and morally wrong (twins needed to be separated, etc.)
  11. Using the original list created on the board, have students choose five of the characteristics that were listed to investigate further. Students can research characteristics other then the ones listed earlier too as long as they receive teacher approval. You may want to let them choose their characteristics as they are searching, as they may come across characteristics that are more interesting to them along the way.
  12. Allow students to access to Gale Science Resource Center and guide them to search for some evidence that points toward either nature or nurture for the five characteristic they chose. By entering “nature nurture” into the search bar they will be able to access plenty of information.
  13. Once students find the evidence to support whether their characteristic is a product of nature or nurture, they should create or explain a scenario that demonstrates their conclusion. Be sure they document the article(s) through which they found their information.
  14. Create a bulletin board that’s headed “The Great Nature vs. Nurture Debate!”. Have one side sub headed “Nature” and the other side “Nurture” and in the center a “?”.
  15. Provide two white sheets of paper to each student. Have the students divide each sheet in half by holding the sheet portrait and then folding the top down over the bottom.
  16. Instruct students to draw representations of their chosen characteristics on each piece of paper, four total. On the back, have them write out, upside down, a quote or a summary of the piece of evidence they found that helped them distinguish whether the trait was nature or nurture and site the resource.
  17. Have the students present their traits to the class and then tape or staple the top edge of their drawing under the appropriate heading on the bulletin board. Be sure they staple or tape only the top edge so others can interact with the board at a later date.
  18. Initiate a follow-up class discussion about why it is important to recognize that traits are dictated by nature or nurture and why we need to be careful in judging or evaluating individual’s decisions or abilities through comparing it to our own.

Steps/Activities by student(s):

  1. Copy the list of characteristics on the board onto a sheet of white paper.
  2. Label next to each characteristic whether you think the characteristic is a product of your DNA or something that has been shaped by the environment that surrounds you.
  3. Share your answers with someone next to you and place a check next to the ones that you designated differently from that person.
  4. Participate in the class discussion about these traits.
  5. Discuss with the class why through history identical twins have been the preferred study tool for the great Nature vs. Nurture debate.
  6. Listen carefully to the article, Luft, Eric V. D. "Twin studies." World of Genetics. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002. Science Resource Center. Gale. 27 August 2006.
  7. Participate in a class discussion about why twin studies have been looked at as ethically and morally wrong.
  8. Using the original list you copied from the board, or your own choice of characteristics with teacher approval, select four characteristics to focus on during your research.
  9. Access Gale Science Resource Center and enter “nature nurture” into the search bar.
  10. Read through the articles and find evidence to support whether the characteristics you chose are products of nature or nurture. In addition, create or explain a scenario that demonstrates your conclusion. Be sure to document the article(s) you used to find your information.
  11. Divide both sheets of white paper you are given in half by holding the sheets portrait and then folding the top down over the bottom.
  12. Draw and color a representation of the characteristics you investigated one on each piece of paper, four total. On the back write out, upside down, a quote or a summary of the piece of evidence you found that helped you distinguish whether the trait was nature or nurture and cite the resource.
  13. Present your traits to the class and then tape or staple the top edge of your drawings under the appropriate headings on the bulletin board. Be sure you staple or tape only the top edge so others can interact with the board at a later date.

Outcome: Students will be able to explain the great Nature vs. Nurture debate and recognize how certain traits are acquired by humans.

Related Activities: Students can explore more about the concentration camps and the twin studies that occurred there during the war. Students can further investigate the nature vs. nurture link by taking their lists of characteristics home and interviewing family members about the characteristics they explored. They can report back on family trends, etc.

Standard Date: December 1994

Content Standard(s): NS.9-12.1(A) Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry; NS.9-12.3(C) Molecular basis of heredity; Interdependence of organisms; Behavior of organisms; NS.9-12.7(G) Nature of scientific knowledge

Performance Indicators:

  • At Level 1, the student is able to:
    • Using article evidence participate in a class discussion about twin studies
  • At Level 2, the student is able to:
    • Research and uncover information about traits influenced by nature and nurture
  • At Level 3, the student is able to:
    • Help construct an interactive informative bulletin board about the nature nurture debate

Computer Literacy and Usage Standards 9-12:

  • The student will demonstrate proficiency in the care and use of computer-based technology
  • The student will develop skills using a variety of computer resources to increase productivity, support creativity, conduct and evaluate research, and improve communications

ISTE NETS for Students

  • A1 Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations; Design and conduct a scientific investigation; Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications; Communicate and defend a scientific argument
  • A2 Scientists usually inquire about how physical, living or designed systems functions; Scientific explanations must adhere to criteria such as a proposed explanation must be logically consistent; must abide by the rule of evidence; it must be open to questions and modification; and it must be based on historical and current scientific knowledge
  • C1 The cell
  • C2 Molecular basis of heredity
  • C4 Interdependence of organisms
  • C6 Behavior of organisms
  • E1 Identify a problem or design an opportunity
  • E2 Scientists in different disciplines ask different questions, use different methods of investigation and accept different types of evidence to support their explanations

Information Power; Information Literacy Standards:

  • Standard 1: The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively
  • Standard 2: The student who is information literate evaluates information critically and competently
  • Standard 3: The student who's information literate uses information accurately and creatively
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