Overview

In this activity, students debate whether or not there is any benefit to buying organic foods. The instructor gives a lecture describing what organic foods are and how they are defined by the Canadian government. Students are prompted with questions during the lecture to get them to think about differences between organic food and GMOs.

At the end of the lecture, the instructor introduces the debate topic (outlined in 'Debate Information' pdf in the activity package). Students get into (or are assigned) groups: one group will argue for buying organic food, and the other will argue against buying organic food. ...

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In this activity, students debate whether or not there is any benefit to buying organic foods. The instructor gives a lecture describing what organic foods are and how they are defined by the Canadian government. Students are prompted with questions during the lecture to get them to think about differences between organic food and GMOs.

At the end of the lecture, the instructor introduces the debate topic (outlined in 'Debate Information' pdf in the activity package). Students get into (or are assigned) groups: one group will argue for buying organic food, and the other will argue against buying organic food. Students are given time in class to think up arguments for their groups position. At home, students collect peer-reviewed evidence for their groups arguments. In the following class, groups put together their arguments and rebuttals, then they debate. Students from each team take turns presenting their arguments and rebuttals. At the end of the class, the instructor goes over the claims from both sides and briefly walks students through misconceptions about organic food. At home, students are then expected to a lay write an article about organic food which they will submit for instructor evaluation.

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Objectives

To encourage students to use critical thinking when reading about science in the media, how it might be misrepresented, and to search for evidence-based claims from reliable sources. To get students to ask the question ‘why’ more often; to question what they read and write, not only in terms of science represented in the media, but also in peer-reviewed articles.

Context and requirements

Level Grade 12-U0
Discipline Biology
Activity Content Organic vs GMOs
Technological Requirements None
Best Use Practice

Author’s Notes

Benefits

Students are motivated to research their specific topic because they want to ‘win’ against the other team. Working in groups makes the task less intimidating than if it were an individual project.

Challenges

Debates work better with smaller teams (e.g., class of 20 or less), which could pose a challenge for larger classes.

Tips

Consolidating after the debate helps to solidify key points for the students, and also can be used as a time to address any misconceptions that arose during the debate. Taking a survey at the end of the class is a helpful way to gauge if students liked the debate, and what they might like to see changed about it for the future.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Research

At home, students research their debate topic and collect information and evidence to support their team’s specific viewpoint.

Debate

In their teams, students work consolidate their research and put together a debate argument following the instructions in the ‘Debate Information’ PDF. In the following class, teams debate against each other in rounds, and judges choose a winning team.

Consolidate

Individually, students write a lay article about the debated topic using speech and terms for a lay audience.

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