by Kevin Sonico
After studying about different organelles that are present in cells and looking at examples of organisms under the microscope, students in Grade 8 explored the life cycle and life strategies of a unicellular and multicellular organisms. Through their research, students compared and contrasted these two different types of organisms. Students brainstormed on what content areas they could find out about each; these were a few of them: life cycle, life span, reproduction, examples of organisms. Several of them constructed graphic organizers like Venn diagrams and tables.
After collecting and researching, students were then prompted to write paragraphs on this question, "Which organism (unicellular or multicellular) has a "better" life strategy?" using the background research. Their arguments and the quality of them were entirely shaped by the quality of their research. When students seemed to struggle with providing strong arguments, they were urged to provide concrete examples, data, etc.
A pendulum debate followed where the two sides (unicellular vs. multicellular) provided their arguments and counter-arguments. A speaker from each side presented an argument then a rebuttal/counter-argument was made by the opposing side. Students were free to change their opinion/side as arguments and counter-arguments were presented - hence, the strength of one's arguments rested on the number of students you maintained or persuaded to change their opinion.
This was the students' first taste of the pendulum debate in Grade 8. This activity will later be used most extensively after this unit, following a persuasive essay on deciding which body system is the most important (to be explored in a later blog post).
The ultimate goal of this activity was to acknowledge that despite the diversity that exists among organisms, there lies a common thread: that our need for survival shapes our life strategies and behaviour.