Students for Scientific Literacy

Curriculum Guide

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Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

I am a student representing the group, Students for Scientific Literacy. According to Pew Research Center, 54% of US adults get most of their news from general news outlets, even though they believe those outlets get the science right 28% of the time. Furthermore, 57% of US adults say that those outlets are doing a good job. The fact of so many people believe news outlets are getting the science wrong yet they’re doing a good job shows that people are not being strict enough in looking for accurate science information. Having an accurate understanding of its various topics is beneficial to how we live our life. Considering the research found from Pew and our discussion with Jodi Marchesso, the coach of STEM curriculum at PUSD, we reasoned that people are not being strict enough in their search for evidence because they were not taught to critically evaluate scientific claims in schools.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The problem is that high school students are not taught how to critically evaluate arguments, and are also not taught how to analyze evidence. To address this problem we chose to implement a curriculum in our high school designed to teach students how to critically evaluate scientific claims, which we hope will lead to a more scientifically literate population.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We plan to solve this problem by creating a lesson plan, through the lens of GMOs, that will teach students how to evaluate arguments while analyzing whether the argument is supported with accurate evidence and additionally teach students how to construct their own arguments. We chose to focus on scientific controversies, in particular the GMO(Genetically Modified Organism) controversy as a lens to address the issue of scientific literacy. Our lesson plan includes various activities all designed to help evaluate arguments, analyze evidence, and make claims. The lesson plan will begin by first addressing any misconceptions that people have about GMOs. Then, there will be a lecture about GMOs. The students will then play the _____ game we designed to help them gain more understanding about the specific types of ways organisms can be genetically modified. The following day students will write a misleading report, one that is not false but twists the evidence by rewording stats (such as 0.01% of the population has lowered testosterone and 3.3 million people suffer from lowered testosterone each year). Students will then engage in a debate about the legislation and morality of GMOs.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When others get involved in our project, they are engaging in learning how to critically evaluate arguments, analyze evidence, and make claims. As they engage in the lesson plan they will be completing various activities that will help them learn more information about GMOs as well as articulate an argument with accurate scientific evidence.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our project is different because it directly addresses the problem with a lesson plan that teaches high school students how to critically evaluate arguments, through the lens of GMOs. Our lesson plan addresses many misconceptions that people have toward GMOs then gives them accurate knowledge, which is beneficial because the topic of GMOs is not usually covered in high school biology class. It is for high school students written by high school students. All members of our team have thought deeply about teaching and learning, and bring a unique perspective to the problem.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Our lesson plan has yet to be implemented, however, the biology teacher at our school has given us permission to implement this curriculum in her Fall 2018 course. We have had success with the game aspect of our lesson plan. Those who have tested the game have learned much about GMOs and there relativity to gene- splicing. From their feedback we know that the game will definitely be beneficial in teaching students more information about GMOs. By incorporating what we learned from other educators into our lesson plan we are sure that it will teach the students the skills needed to critically evaluate arguments, analyze evidence, and make claims.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the future, Fall of 2018, we hope to have part in Sequoyah High School Strategic Plan. As part of this plan we will have a voice in overlooking the science curriculum at Sequoyah K-12. Additionally, we hope to establish a stewardship committee that will take the work we have completed and put it toward advancing our solution. We have two 10th graders on our team and they have said that they would like to use our current project as a stepping stone for a larger impact project. We have promoted our project to high school teachers at Sequoyah, but we want our project to scale far beyond our independent school. In order for this to occur, we are implementing NGSS standards into our lesson plan so that it can be used in public high schools.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

To make our vision a reality we need approval from various schools: independent, public, charter to implement our lesson plan into their curriculum. By intervening with high schools students education now we hope to see a short term goal of immediate application of the skills taught and a long term goal of adults view toward their science information as accurate, because they utilized their learned skills of evaluating arguments, analyzing evidence, and making their own scientific claims. Additionally, feedback about our lesson plan via email or on our website is beneficial.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Mentors/advisors

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We could partner with changemakers and other young people to improve our gene-splicing game (one component of our lesson plan). It would be beneficial to utilize the skills that members of changemakers have and the skills of young people for game design. Our game is in the form of using paper four quadrant tables, but we could partner with anyone who has skills in game design that would like to help us advance our game into a more playable board game. By altering the current design to that of a board game we could make it available to other schools and educational centers. Seeing that this problem will continue to occur if we do not intervene now, we also want to partner with more educators across the country to implement our lesson plan into their curriculum. To do that, we would like to share our materials through websites or other hubs where teachers pull resources from.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Email


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Photo of Elijah Snyder

Awesome idea! We both have the goal of literacy, critical thinking skills, and education about the misinformation spread by popular news media; just in different fields. It's great to see people tackling similar issues- I'd love for us to work together in the future since we have similar goals! The program seems incredible- I wonder if you could get to the point where entire an curriculum could have a similar format?

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