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The Clone AgeThe-Clone-Age

  • Subject: Technology
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand that there are ethical and practical arguments in favor of cloning and against cloning. Some examples follow:
1. In favor: cloning would be a good source for blood, organ, and bone marrow transplants; scientists gather important information about human personality development by studying twins, who could be produced by cloning; animals from endangered species could be cloned to prevent extinction; cloning livestock animals would be financially beneficial to farmers.
2. Against: tampering with nature can create disastrous consequences for the human race; for example, the technology could be used for inhumane purposes such as creating human "guinea pigs" for scientific experiments, slaves, and so on.
3. Visual images and persuasive language can be effective tools for swaying public opinion.


For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials
Computer with Internet access
Art materials


1. Begin the activity with a general discussion of the ethical and practical arguments both for and against cloning. You might start the discussion off by citing some examples of arguments on each side of the question.
2. Tell students that each of them should decide for herself or himself which side of the issue to support. Each student should then plan a public service advertisement campaign for or against cloning.
3. Encourage students to use attention-grabbing images and snappy yet informative language in their ads. Suggest that they might find models of such images and language in other public service advertisements, such as the ones that discourage people from smoking. (A few good examples can be found ) Point out that student ad campaigns can take the form of posters, buttons, pamphlets, television or radio spots, and magazine or newspaper advertisements.
4. Have students choose which side they will be on, think through their arguments, and list what they believe to be the strongest points in their arguments.
5. Allow class time for students to create their ad campaigns, utilizing their lists.
6. Allow class time for each student to present or display his or her campaign.
7. Invite the class to vote on which three campaigns are the most effective, whether for or against cloning.
8. Discuss what makes the winning campaigns effective. Is it the compelling logic of the arguments, the persuasive quality of the language, the forceful quality of the visual images?

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Adaptations for Older Students:
Have students write brief essays supporting their opinions with logical arguments backed up with facts from their research.

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Discussion Questions

1. Medical advances save lives, but does technology go too far? Discuss whether anything and everything should be done to save a person's life.
2. By studying twins, scientists are analyzing which has more influence on a person's behavior and personality: their genes or the environment in which they are raised. What conclusions can you make about this argument?
3. Debate the ethics of cloning only the best and brightest of the human race. If you were in charge of undertaking such a project, which qualities would you look for when selecting your cloning subjects? Would you be doing a disservice to the human race by undertaking this project? Why or why not?
4. Medical procedures that were once considered unethical, such as transplanting hearts and fertilizing human eggs in laboratories, are now relatively common. On the other hand, some scientific projects that appeared clear-cut at first (the development of the nuclear bomb) are subject to ethical debate now. Compare the ethics of cloning with the ethics of earlier scientific developments.
5. Politicians around the world have begun to ban human cloning experiments. Do you think it is a good or bad idea for politicians to decide what scientists can and cannot do? How about religious authorities, many of whom are also opposed to human cloning? Who should make such decisions and why?
6. Explain some of the commonly held misconceptions about cloning. Why do you think people have these kinds of misconceptions?

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You can evaluate groups on their ad campaigns using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: compelling logical arguments, strong persuasive language, forceful visual images
  • Two points: logical arguments, sufficiently persuasive language, adequate visual images
  • One point: some weak arguments, insufficiently persuasive language, inadequate visual images
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining criteria for compelling logic, persuasive language, and forceful visuals.

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"Way-Out" Science Fiction Stories
Many scientific concepts, such as cloning, that seem commonplace today actually first appeared in works of science fiction. Lead a brief discussion about any books, movies, and television shows in which cloning is a theme. (Two good examples are Woody Allen's film Sleeper and the more recent film Multiplicity .) Now that cloning is no longer science fiction but science fact, what will be the next "way-out" idea to appear in a science-fiction story — an idea that might one day become reality? To answer this question, have students write a science-fiction story that involves a new, stranger-than-reality scientific idea. When students finish writing, ask them to consider each other's stories and discuss which way-out ideas are most likely to end up becoming reality and why.

Cloning in the News
The U.S. government is currently working fast and furiously to pass whatever laws are necessary to prevent or delay human cloning experimentation in the United States. Have your students research the steps that the president and Congress are taking to make this happen, as well as any current cloning experiments that are under way. When they have gathered their information, ask them to synthesize what they have learned into a news briefing for a local television station. Make sure they summarize all of the important developments and present them in a clearly written report.

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Suggested Readings

Genetic Engineering
Jenny Bryan. Thomson Learning, 1995.
Will our knowledge of genetic engineering help people, or is there cause for concern about what might happen to people, animals, or our food supply? Read about the scientific principles and the ethical issues related to genetic engineering.

The History of Genetics
Robert Snedden. Thomson Learning, 1995.
Colored illustrations, photos, and diagrams will help you understand genetics as you read this book. You'll also find a "Chronology of Advance" that highlights the people whose discoveries have advanced our understanding of genetics, as well as a glossary of important terms. Read this book for a basic understanding of the many issues involved in genetics.

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DNA: From the Beginning
An interactive multimedia primer geared towards people without a scientific background, it will take the user from the basics of heredity through methods of DNA analysis.

The Biology Project
The Biology Project is an interactive online resource for learning biology, developed at The University of Arizona. Genetics activities include tutorials on the subject and many interesting applications such as forensics.

Hello Dolly Webquest
Students are encouraged to join in the worldwide debate on the ethics of cloning in this role playing classroom activity. Links to resources provide information for various points of view.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    clone
Definition: An exact genetic replica of a living being.
Context: Two human clones would have the same genetic structure, but they would probably have different personalities.

speaker    embryology
Definition: The study of the development of the individual from egg to birth or hatching.
Context: Embryologists are crucial to the development of cloning technology.

speaker    ethical
Definition: Relating to or involving questions of right and wrong.
Context: The idea of cloning human beings raises ethical and moral concerns.

speaker    genes
Definition: The building blocks of DNA, which serve as transmitters of hereditary characteristics.
Context: Genes control the transmission of hereditary traits in living beings.

speaker    genetic engineering
Definition: The process of altering a living being's genes to create a desired effect.
Context: Genetic engineering can produce a redder tomato, a taller giraffe, or a cow that gives more milk.

speaker    nucleus
Definition: The control center of a cell.
Context: The nucleus is where the cell's genetic information is contained.

speaker    transgenics
Definition: The process of replacing the nucleus of one animal's cell with the nucleus of a different animal's cell.
Context: Transgenic scientists have inserted a human nucleus into a sheep cell.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8, 9-12
Subject area: life science
Knows the general structure and functions of cells in organisms.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows that all organisms are composed of cells, which are the fundamental units of life; most organisms are single cells, but other organisms (including humans) are multicellular.

Benchmark 6-8:
Knows that multicellular organisms have a variety of specialized cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems that perform specialized functions.

Benchmark 9-12:
Understands cell differentiation.

Grade level: 6-8, 9-12
Subject area: life science
Understands the genetic basis for the transfer of biological characteristics from one generation to the next.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows that the characteristics of an organism can be described in terms of a combination of traits; some traits are inherited and others result from interactions with the environment.

Benchmark 6-8:
Knows that hereditary information is contained in genes (located in the chromosomes of each cell), each of which carries a single unit of information; an inherited trait of an individual can be determined by either one or many genes, and a single gene can influence more than one trait.

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows the chemical and structural properties of DNA and its role in specifying the characteristics of an organism.

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows ways in which genes may be altered and combined to create genetic variation within a species.

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows that genes are segments of DNA molecules, and that inserting, deleting, or substituting portions of the DNA can alter genes.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: life science
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Knows how organisms are classified into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups based on similarities that reflect their evolutionary relationships (e.g., shared derived characteristics inherited from a common ancestor; degree of kinship estimated from the similarity of DNA sequences).

Grade level: 6-8, 9-12
Subject area: technology
Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows that science cannot answer all questions and technology cannot solve all human problems or meet all human needs.

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows that science and technology are pursued for different purposes.

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Audrey Carangelo, freelance curriculum developer.

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