Curriculum links

15th November 2002 at 00:00
Religious studies

Teachers can use this article to illustrate the debate among scientists, moral philosophers and religious thinkers. Students could be given the task of representing the issues in the article as a flow-chart, showing the possible flow-on effects of certain decisions. In the course of doing this they can identify sequencing in the argument. Whether using ICT or pens, different colours could be used to pick out the pros and cons, and the various case studies cited.

Press cuttings can be collected then analysed under headings such as balance; fairness of presentation; use of case studies; type of language (emotive, scientific, and so on) etc. This can shape reader opinion just as much as what is presented.

Sixth-form students can also produce a briefing dossier of bullet-pointed summaries for use in Year 10, GCSE RS. They need to think about the needs of younger students, then analyse and adapt material for them and their syllabus, in the process becoming more conversant with it themselves.

Key stage 3: many students have deep concerns about animal welfare and are already motivated to engage with material like this. Teachers can adapt it to raise issues about animal and human rights, animal and human suffering, and how humans and other animals are inter-related.

Students will have plenty to say about all this and the resulting discussion may easily generate more heat than light. In this situation "discussion" sometimes becomes a set of strident monologues by students. To reduce the risk of this, try empathy exercises. Case study cards can provide basic information from this article for students to use in class. For example: "You are the owner of a fish farm ...", and so on. Having to argue the case for this person, irrespective of one's own views, helps students to identify the central issues.

Students can work in pairs, listen to their partner's view and then present the partner's view to the class and not their own. Also try getting students to see how the issues might be viewed differently according to one's perspective as an agnostic or atheist, or believer. In all these ways students can learn, rather than simply assert views that they held before they encountered any of this material.

Terence Copley


The issues raised make a good piece for looking at "ideas and evidence in science". There is some basic KS4 biology about organs and their function, and about ecology - especially the balances in natural cycles. Wider moral and ethical questions are difficult for students to grasp, so a clear story about using substitute organs, for example, will help them access the issues.

Is there ignorance or confusion about cloning and GM issues in the class? Small groups could research each topic mentioned and report to the whole group, giving the teacher time to talk with smaller groups and hear their concerns, and ultimately inform the debate.

John Dexter


An interesting angle is the possible legal rights of the animals themselves. Citizenship teaching requires that pupils are taught about "legal and human rights", but the boundaries of such rights are always being pushed by activists. An example of this is the possible ban on fox hunting. Set against the chronology of selective breeding of farm animals and domestic pets - which long pre-date genetic discoveries - pupils could debate the future of transplanting animal organs into humans, from the animal's point of view. For example, what might pigs have to say about such matters? How might a pig define its rights if it were capable of doing so? Would pigs be prepared to accept that in their domestic form they are the end-products of human intervention anyway?

Andrew Wrenn


Literacy: Read George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. Invent animals from parts of other animals, eg "The Hipporhinostricow" by Spike Milligan. Clone sentences by using the same sentence in different contexts. Compare words with one letter different, eg catcut, dampdump. Look at different words with the same meaning. Make up codes (engineer letters). Write about improvements to humans (eg screw-on hand attachments, feet with roller blades).

Numeracy: Engineer numbers - use function button on a calculator to change numbers eg 10


12, 24


26. Set calculations where one digit changes each time. Try sorting and classifying objects. Count legs on sheep (eg 4, 8 etc) History: Look at domestic animals and pets in the past. What do we know about Romans, Egyptians etc?

Art: How do we make exact copies in 2-D and 3-D? Change one aspect, repeat patterns, then repeat patterns with subtle changes. Make up animals.

PE:Moving like animals, become aware of heartbeat and other body changes before and after motion. Repeat sequences, changing one element. Copy each other's sequences.

ICT: Support all the above. Visit biology websites, farming websites. Practise data gathering with, for example, favourite pets. Make graphs and charts of data.

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