Blog Challenge (Day 4-yes, out of order) HeLa Cell Topic & Debate

 I’m jumping ahead in the sequence of days in the 20 Day Blogging Challenge because I am so HAPPY with today’s and yesterday’s activity in class. I like to bring in current events linked to possible historical events in class to have debates in ethics. This past August a seed was planted in my head that came to fruition this week. In August I attended a teacher workshop at The Perot Museum and was introduced to the lab from CellServ, Preparation of Human Chromosome Spreads; or commonly known as HeLa cells. The day of this workshop was actually the day that the National Institute of Health and the Lacks family came to an agreement as to the future use of HeLa cells. I am in the process of ordering the kits for class as it is taking longer than expected I went ahead with the activity below.


Henrietta Lacks Radiolab
Debate Ethics in Science
Day 1: We listened to the Radiolab session above on Totally Tumors (just the section over Henrietta Lacks) and then had small group discussions about the impact the information had on students individually and then shared as a large group these ideas and posed questions.
Day 2: I set up four corners: The Progress of Science, Ethics, John Hopkins University/Hospital and the Lacks Family. Students were given colored paper as they entered the room that coordinated with the four corners. We reviewed what we had learned the day before to get focused and then I challenged the students to look at the viewpoint of each of the stakeholders listed above. The students had 15 minutes to collaborate and research if wanted their viewpoint. Then we shared large group each side and then moved to rebuttals. In several classes I had to stop the debate due to time restraints. Students were so interested and invested it made for some great discussion/debate. I finished with the summary video, Video 2013, from PBS that summarizes the current agreement between the Lacks family and National Institute of Health or NIH. Students also had their questions answered on how the cells grow so rapidly outside of the body and the true wants of the family. In the closing of the class, I showed students my sample slide of HeLa cells obtained in the workshop previously described. Here is a picture:

I took this picture with an iPad through the lens of a microscope. (It takes a steady hand and practice!) The students were in awe that they were looking at the chromosomes from Henrietta Lacks. They were in the room 60 years later! Very cool! Definitely will repeat this lesson in future, hopefully with the lab itself allowing students to obtain and observe the cells as I did.


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