Category Archives: Science

Space: The Final Frontier…For The Rich!

“In an era in which privileged individuals search constantly for the next experience to obsess over and post about on social media, space truly remains the final frontier, a luxury that only the one percent of the one percent can afford. Brad Pitt and Katy Perry are among those who have reportedly plunked down $250,000 for a ride on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceships… Now a company called Axiom Space is giving those with piles of money and an adventuresome spirit something new to lust after: the prospect of an eight-day trip to space that is plush, if not entirely comfortable, and with a bit of the luster of NASA as well.”  S. Marikar, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Astronaut Gardner Holds A For Sale Sign Photograph by Everett

 

Excerpt: The Rich Are Planning To Leave This Wretched Planet By Sheila Marikar, The New York Times

“Circumambulating the floor of his gray carpeted office on a recent Wednesday, Mike Suffredini — NASA veteran, Houston native and the chief executive officer of Axiom Space — stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.

‘It’s no New York hotel room,’ he said with a shrug, as if apologizing for its size. ‘It pretty much is, actually!’ said Gabrielle Rein, Axiom’s marketing director. 

A rendering that screams open the pod bay doors. Credit: Axiom Space

It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station, among the first of its kind, that Axiom is building: a mash-up of boutique hotel, adult space camp, and NASA-grade research facility designed to hover approximately 250 miles above the earth. Axiom hired Philippe Starck, the French designer who has lent panache to everything from high-end hotel rooms to mass-market baby monitors, to outfit the interior of its cabins. Mr. Starck lined the walls with a padded, quilted, cream-colored, suede-like fabric and hundreds of tiny LED lights that glow in varying hues depending on the time of day and where the space station is floating in relation to the earth.

Mike Suffredini, left, with designer Philippe Starck, with their mockup.CreditTodd Spoth for The New York Times

‘My vision is to create a comfortable egg, friendly, where walls are so soft and in harmony with the movements of the human body in zero gravity,’ Mr. Starck wrote in an email, calling his intended effect ‘a first approach to infinity. The traveler should physically and mentally feel his or her action of floating in the universe.’

The Starck-designed station will supposedly open in 2022, but Axiom says they can start sending curious travelers into orbit as early as 2020. (Note: nearly everything space-related is delayed by years, sometimes decades.) They’ll just have to make do with the comparatively rugged accommodations of the International Space Station, which is working with Axiom in addition to other commercial space station outfits…Axiom’s station can house eight passengers, including a professional astronaut.

Photo- Veranda

Each will pay $55 million for the adventure, which includes 15 weeks of training, much of it at the Johnson Space Center, a 10-minute drive from Axiom’s headquarters, and possibly a trip on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Thus far, three entities have signed up for on-the-ground training, which starts at $1 million, Mr. Suffredini said, though he declined to name them. The inaugural trip will be only $50 million. ‘It’s a bargain!’ he said.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many call the stay at Axiom glamping at 1,320,000 feet.
  2. Circumambulating the floor of his office Mike Suffredini stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.
  3. It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station.
  4. Some may suffer from Claustrophobia.
  5. They’re putting big inflatable space pods into orbit.
  6. These habitat and outpost companies are great.
  7. Passengers  take a medical exam, administered before the rest of training begins.
  8. The exam includes tests of mind and mettle.
  9. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard bathroom as a potty.
  10. He believes that Axiom is crucial to the survival of our species.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Axiom ___will be ___to ___a NASA-grade ___for the rocket ride to and ___the station. (Features include a fiberglass___ and a___ tube for ___small sips of water. Also, a diaper.)

WORD LIST:  consuming, spacesuit,  torso,  required,  from, drink, wear,  guests,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

To understand/understood the grand/great  scale/scales of Axiom’s plants/plans, it helps to know that astronauts have, thus far, largely been roughing/rough it up there. The Johnson Space Center contains/contain a life-size mock-up of the ISS, whose drab, beige interior is lined with drab/dribble, gray/grey handholds to tether down things and people, necessary given the lack of gravity/gravy. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard/outboard bathroom as a ‘potty.’ There are no showers.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions.

  1. Would you like to travel in a space ship? Provide reason why or why not.
  2. Do you think it’s fair that only very rich people can afford this experience?
  3. Compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

 

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science, Technology | Tags:

Stephen Hawking’s Final Escape to the Stars…

Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair, pondering the nature of gravity and the origin of the universe and becoming an emblem of human determination and curiosity, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76.” D. Overbye, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest physicists of our time, died on Wednesday. He is immortalized by his brilliant research, but also by his pop culture appearances. Photo by David Parry:Press Association,

Excerpt: Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos, By Dennis Overbye, The New York Times

“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the  public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of  people around the world…Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, published in 1988…Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.  What is equally amazing is that he had a career at all. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live.

Dr. Hawking took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a plane that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce fleeting periods of weightlessness. Credit Steve Boxall:Zero Gravity Corporation

He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them. In a long and daunting calculation, Dr. Hawking discovered to his befuddlement that black holes — those mythological avatars of cosmic doom — were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons.

The discovery of Hawking radiation, as it is known, turned black holes upside down. It transformed them from destroyers to creators — or at least to recyclers — and wrenched the dream of a final theory in a strange, new direction…In 2002, Dr. Hawking said he wanted the formula for ‘Hawking radiation’ to be engraved on his tombstone.

In April 2007, a few months after his 65th birthday, he took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a specially equipped Boeing 727, a padded aircraft that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce fleeting periods of weightlessness.  It was a prelude to a hoped-for trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company aboard SpaceShipTwo.

‘What a triumph his life has been,” said Martin Rees, a Cambridge University cosmologist, the astronomer royal of England and Dr. Hawking’s longtime colleague. ‘His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his best-selling books; and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds — a manifestation of amazing willpower and determination.’

Paraphrasing Einstein’s complaint about the randomness inherent in quantum mechanics, Dr. Hawking said, “God not only plays dice with the universe, but sometimes throws them where they can’t be seen.”’

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” ~Stephen Hawking~

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about Stephen Hawking. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Stephen Hawking endeared himself to millions of people around the world.
  2. Dr. Hawking developed a long and daunting calculation involving black holes.
  3. He found that they would eventually fizzle  and disappear over the eons.
  4. The discovery of Hawking radiation turned black holes upside down.
  5. Hawking wanted to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps.
  6. What a triumph his life has been!
  7. Martin Rees was  Dr. Hawking’s longtime colleague.
  8. Stephen Hawking was an example of achievement against all the odds.
  9. Stephen was a mediocre student at St. Albans School in London.
  10. In school, Hawking rarely consulted a book or took notes.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The oldest of ___children, Stephen was a ___student at St. Albans School in London, though his innate ___was recognized by some ___and teachers.

Later, at University College, Oxford, he found his___ in ___and ___so ___that he ___consulted a book or took notes. He got by with a ___hours of ___in three years, or one hour a day, he estimated.

WORD LIST: work, easy, mathematics studies, thousand, classmates, physics brilliance, four, mediocre, rarely,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

He moved/mowed to Cambridge upon his graduation for/from Oxford. Before he could begin/begun his research, however, he was stricken/stuck by what his research adviser, Dr. Sciama, came to call “that terrible thing.” The young Hawking had been experience/experiencing occasional weakness/week and falling spells for several years. Shortly after his 21st birthday, in 1963, doctors tell/told him that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

CHARTS

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions:  Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask Stephen Hawking. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

 

Category: Science | Tags:

The 2017 Historic Flight of SpaceX’s Dragon Ship!

“For the first time in the history of commercial spaceflight, a used spacecraft has blasted off on a mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).” H. Weitering, Space.com

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with answer Key

The nine Merlin engines on the first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket power the company’s Dragon cargo capsule toward orbit on June 3, 2017. Credit- SpaceX

 

Excerpt: SpaceX Successfully Launches Used Dragon Cargo Ship in Historic First, By Hanneke Weitering, Space.com

“After lightning strikes delayed the launch on Thursday (June 1), lingering storm clouds parted just enough for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to safely lift off from NASA’s historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today (June 3).

The Falcon 9 rocket, topped with SpaceX’s first refurbished Dragon cargo craft, took to the skies at 5:07 p.m. EDT (2107 GMT). About 8 minutes after liftoff, the first-stage rocket booster returned to Earth to stick a landing at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. [Launch Photos: SpaceX’s 1st Reused Dragon Spacecraft]

A little over 10 minutes into the flight, the Dragon separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed its solar arrays and began its three-day trek to the ISS. On Monday (June 5), the spacecraft will dock at the space station’s Harmony module, delivering close to 6,000 lbs. (2,700 kilograms) of supplies and science experiments to the Expedition 52 crew.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a used Dragon cargo craft blasts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2017

Another historic 1st for SpaceX

Today’s mission is the latest in a series of historic firsts for SpaceX, the private spaceflight company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk…With the ultimate (and highly ambitious) goal of being able to reuse all major components of their launch vehicles, SpaceX is now putting the Dragon to the test.

‘This whole notion of reuse is something that’s very important to the entire space industry and NASA as well as Space X and others,’ Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s ISS program, said in the briefing. ‘The idea of reuse is important for economic reasons as well as technical reasons.” [SpaceX Gaining Substantial Cost Savings From Reused Falcon 9]’

Science on board!

Along with food, water, clothing and other gear for the astronauts at the space station, the Dragon will deliver plenty of science experiments… The experiments on board will support about 220 investigations currently happening at the space station.

The Falcon 9 first stage touches down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 3, 2017. Credit- SpaceX

A new, experimental type of solar panel is also flying to the space station on the Dragon. Called the Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA), these new solar arrays are smaller, lighter and more efficient than the current solar panels that power the ISS.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stage is seen safely on its Florida landing pad with the trail of its fiery descent visible in this amazing long-exposure photo taken June 3, 2017 Credit- SpaceX

The Dragon also contains some live passengers, including 40 mice and thousands of fruit flies. For a project called Rodent Research-5, the mice will help researchers study a new drug for osteoporosis, or bone density loss. The fruit flies will help investigators study the prolonged effects of spaceflight on the human heart.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart from Michigan State University to list the information they already know about the Space X Dragon ship. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The lingering storm clouds finally parted.
  2. The  Falcon 9 rocket  was able to safely lift off.
  3. The Falcon 9 rocket carried SpaceX’s first refurbished Dragon cargo craft.
  4. The Dragon separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed its solar arrays.
  5. This is  the seventh launch for SpaceX this year.
  6. The private spaceflight company was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
  7. Certain parts had to be replaced for a number of reasons, such as exposure to seawater during splashdown.
  8. Dragon has been in space before and has been docked to the station for a couple of weeks.
  9. This whole notion of reuse is something that’s very important to the entire space industry.
  10. The idea of reuse is  also important for economic reasons.

Reading Comprehension: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

The Dragon will also delve/deliver  many science/scenes experiments. The experiments on board/broad will support about 220 investigations currently happening at the spice/space station. “They span a multitude/multiple of scientific disciplines, including biological research/reach, the physical sciences, the humane/human research that we’re doing with the astro/astronauts, the technology demonstration studying Earth and space from the ISS, and then last but not least, the educational activities/acts that students have an opportunity to participate in.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

___Thursday weather permitted SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket___safely lift___.

A little___10 minutes___ the flight, the Dragon separated___the Falcon 9’s second stage.

___Monday the spacecraft will dock at the space station’s Harmony module.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president ___flight reusability___SpaceX, said “We are hoping ___stay___ this rate ____the rest ___the year.

III. Post Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science, Technology

Ancient Horse DNA Reveals How the Fierce Scythian Warriors Survived

“Horses sacrificed by fierce nomads living in Central Asia more than 2,000 years ago have provided new insights into how people tamed the wild animals and bred them to their needs. The Scythians roamed over a vast swath of this region, from Siberia to the Black Sea, for about 800 years…They were known for their equestrian battle skills, including the ability to shoot arrows while riding, and for the brutal treatment of those they defeated…the Scythians blinded their slaves, and the warriors drank the blood of the first enemy they killed in battle.” K. Chang, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Beautiful Mongolian horse

Excerpt:  Ancient Horse DNA Shows Scythian Warriors Were Adept Domesticators, By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times

“In a study published Thursday by the journal Science, an international team of researchers deployed the latest genetic tools with 13 stallions that were buried in a mound in what is now Kazakhstan, well-preserved in the permafrost. (The Scythians appear to have only sacrificed male horses.) The decoded DNA not only provides insights into the ancient horses, but also suggests the Scythians were more than warriors.

‘Here we see them as breeders,’ said Ludovic Orlando, a professor of molecular archaeology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who led the research. ‘We reveal part of their management strategy and part of their knowledge 2,300 years ago.’

The findings also fit an emerging theory of how domestication in general changes animals as they become intertwined with humans.

Mongol horse archer

‘It’s great stuff,’ commented Greger Larson, director of the paleogenomics and bioarchaeology research network at the University of Oxford in England, who was not involved in the research. ‘It demonstrates the power of ancient whole genomes to understand the pattern and the process of domestication.’ Among the farm animals whose lives have become entwined with people, horses were a late addition.

Dogs were the first animal friends of humans — wolves that scavenged for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were domesticated by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.

A Mongolian horse breeder catching horses.Credit NYT

It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started catching and keeping wild horses for meat and milk. Riding horses came later.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Nomads living in Central Asia were fierce warriors.
  2. Researchers deployed the latest genetic tools.
  3. The decoded DNA provides insights into the ancient horses.
  4. They found 13 stallions buried in a mound well-preserved in the permafrost.
  5. The genetic changes may slightly reduce the number of neural crest cells.
  6. The Scythian horses’ DNA showed no signs of inbreeding.
  7. Researchers  found two stallions from a royal Scythian tomb  and one mare.
  8. Evidence shows  earlier people, figured out how to use horses to pull two-wheeled chariots.
  9. The findings also fit an emerging theory of how domestication in general changes animals.
  10. Here we see them as breeders.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Among the___ animals whose lives have become___with people, horses were a late addition.

Dogs were the first___ friends of humans — wolves that ___for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were___by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.

It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started ____and keeping wild ____for meat and milk. Riding horses came later.

WORD LIST: horses, domesticated, animal, scavenged, entwined, catching, farm, 

 Grammar Focus

Grammar: Identifying Articles

Directions: Have students choose the correct English articles (THE, A, AN) from those provided to fill in the blanks.

___genetic changes may slightly reduce___number of neural crest cells. This begins to support___sort of grand theory. In modern horses,___Y chromosomes in stallions are almost identical. ___Y chromosome tells ___ genetic story of males of ___ species.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students search the web for additional information about the topic. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science | Tags:

New Stem-Cell Discovery Stirs New Ethical Questions

“As biological research races forward, ethical quandaries are piling up. In a report published Tuesday in the journal eLife, researchers at Harvard Medical School said it was time to ponder a startling new prospect: synthetic embryos. In recent years, scientists have moved beyond in vitro fertilization. They are starting to assemble stem cells that can organize themselves into embryo like structures.Whatever else, it is sure to unnerve most of us.” by C. Zimmer, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Biological landscape of embryos and Synthetic human entities with embryonic features (SHEEFs) in relation to moral status. image-elife

Excerpt: A New Form of Stem-Cell Engineering Raises Ethical Questions, by Carl Zimmer, The New York Times 

“Soon, experts predict, they will learn how to engineer these cells into new kinds of tissues and organs. Eventually, they may take on features of a mature human being. In the report, John D. Aach and his colleagues explored the ethics of creating what they call ‘synthetic human entities with embryolike features’ — Sheefs, for short. For now, the most advanced Sheefs are very simple assemblies of cells. But in the future, they may develop into far more complex forms, the researchers said, such as a beating human heart connected to a rudimentary brain, all created from stem cells.

Established guidelines for human embryo research are useless for deciding which Sheefs will be acceptable and which not, Dr. Aach argued. Before scientists get too deeply into making Sheefs, some rules must be put in place. Dr. Aach and his colleagues urged that certain features be kept off limits: Scientists, for example, should never create a Sheef that feels pain…Scientists began grappling with the ethics of lab-raised embryos more than four decades ago.

Photo- The stem cell blog

In 1970, the physiologist Robert G. Edwards and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge announced they had been able to fertilize human eggs with sperm and keep them alive for two days in a petri dish. During that time, the embryos each divided into 16 cells. In 1979, a federal advisory board recommended that the cutoff should be 14 days…Adherence to the 14-day rule led to tremendous advances. For decades, scientists did not break the 14-day rule — but only because they did not know how. But last year, two teams of scientists determined how to grow human embryos for 13 days. Those advances hinted that it might be possible to allow scientists to tack on a few days more, by changing the 14-day rule to, say, a 20-day rule… A hint of the future arrived in a study published this month by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

They built microscopic scaffolding into which they injected a mixture of two types of embryonic stem cells from mice. While these artificial embryos developed from embryonic stem cells, it may soon become possible to build them from reprogrammed adult human cells. No fertilization or ordinary embryonic development would be required to build a mouse Sheef. Henry T. Greely of Stanford University was less optimistic. While it is important to have a discussion about Sheefs, he said, it may be hard to reach an agreement on limits as enforceable as the 14-day rule. Even if ethicists do manage to agree on certain limits, Paul S. Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist at the University of California, wondered how easy it would be for scientists to know if they had crossed them.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic of stem-cell research.  Next, have students look at the photos in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

G. Cluster Brainstorming-workshopexercises

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Some experts predict cell engineering will cause trouble.
  2. What are the ethics of creating synthetic human entities?
  3. They may develop into far more complex forms.
  4. Scientists might be able to test out drugs for diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
  5. There has to be guidelines for human embryo research.
  6. Scientists began grappling with the ethics of lab-raised embryos.
  7. Adherence to the 14-day rule led to tremendous advances.
  8. Some scientists were optimistic.
  9. Other kinds of research such as cloning could be studied.
  10. Spotting a primitive streak is easy.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Dr. Edwards won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for his reset/research, which opened the door to in vitro fertilization/fertilize. The discovery/discover also made it possible to study the early/earliest moments of human/humane development. Governments around the world/worldly began deliberating over how length/long research laboratories and fertility clinics/clinic should be allowed to let these embryos grow. The so-called 14-day rule came to be embraced/embody not just by scientists in the United States but in other countries as well.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

Experts predict, they will learn how___engineer these cells ___new kinds ___tissues and organs.

___the future, they may develop___ far more complex forms.

Such ___a beating human heart connected ___a rudimentary brain, all created ___stem cells.

Adherence ___the 14-day rule led___ tremendous advances.

Each ___those germ layers goes ___  ___produce all the body’s tissues and organs.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Group Debates

Directions: After reading the article, place students in groups and  have each group choose one side of the following debate:  For or Against the New Form of Stem-Cell Engineering. Allow groups to develop their arguments and conclude with a class discussion.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science, Social Issues