Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy
ELA - Literacy.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.9
RST.9-10.9. Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.
Set the Stage
Many issues in science and technology tend to be controversial, especially as our scientific understanding evolves. Issues, such as global warming, draw out many theories and viewpoints. With statistics and evidence, each side seems plausible. In this standard, students are asked to read at least two sources of information on an issue, and then show what these sources have in common and how they differ. Often, there will be some points of agreement, even though different conclusions might be drawn. Students will need to evaluate the evidence of all sources in order to note contradictions and draw their own conclusions.
In biology class, you’ve been studying the pollination and reproduction habits of bees. Your text makes note of a perplexing decline in bee populations here in this country and in other parts of the world. Many scientists believe that the use of pesticides on plants accounts for this decline. Unfortunately, no definitive answer to this problem has been found. Studies performed on this issue have created a lot of buzz.
In order to better examine this issue, you do a little research on the studies. Most notable are the ones conducted by French researchers and British scientists. While both concluded that common pesticides can have detrimental effects on bee colonies, they differ in what those effects might be. Either way, these experts, and others, recommend the discontinuance of certain pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Poison swords, if we may.
The French believe that the chemicals “fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home.” Meanwhile, the British contend that the poisons “keep the bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens.” Both would negatively impact bee numbers.
Bench-sitting scientists not involved in these studies are divided in their opinions of the adverse effects of pesticides, but they as well as environmentalists believe pesticides should be banned. Others argue that it is not the pesticides reducing bee populations, but other factors, such as fewer flowers due to land development and a variety of diseases to which bees are susceptible. So, which is it?
Neither of the studies solved the “mystery of the vanishing bees.” The French found that ten percent of bees exposed to pesticides were less likely to make it back to home base in familiar territory. In a strange area, 31 percent were less likely to return. Meanwhile, the Brits found even more striking results. Most exposed bees died, except for the queen bees who flew off to join other colonies. Undependable wenches!
While scientists continue to debate exactly what’s happening, most agree that the use of pesticides plays some role in decreasing bee populations.
Biggs, Alton, et al. Biology. McGraw Hill: New York, 2009.
Zimmer, Carl. “2 Studies Point to Common Pesticide as a Culprit in Declining Bee Colonies.” New York Times 29 March 12. 20 April 2012 < http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/science/neocotinoid-pesticides-play-a-role-in-bees-decline-2-studies-find.html?_r=1>.
That’s a Wrap
Knowing background information on a topic is helpful when students later read about that topic from other sources. Armed with specific information, students are able to read varying opinions and determine where an outside source falls short or becomes questionable. Students become critical readers and thinkers when challenged with conflicting ideas. It’s how mysteries are solved.
Create a Venn Diagram which demonstrates the mixed opinions of scientists regarding declining bee populations.
British Researchers French Researchers