Studying genetically modified organisms in middle school provides a challenge for students to learn about scientific principles behind a current debate which affects everyone.
At King Middle School, science teacher Catherine Bursk presented two corn plants and asked students to identify which was grown from genetically corn seed.
The first plant was twice the height of the second one. The second plant appeared to be healthier, with brighter green leaves.
This past spring Bursk’s students developed some expertise on the subject of GMOs. The curriculum called for learning about genetics. Bursk decided to combine that with a controversial question which affected their lives?
“I felt like it was relevant to their lives,” she said.
Students cast their votes based on a hunch, but then Bursk gave them more information to evaluate their guesses. Since GMO corn is resistant to the weed killer Roundup, some students immersed their seeds in the herbicide, noting the resulting plants. They then voted for the second plant, as Roundup inhibits the plant’s height.
“So even though a plant may look genetically modified – or not – doesn’t mean it is – or isn’t,” Bursk said.