NWABR Bioethics, Day 6


Planaria using computer usb microscope

On Wednesday, we spent the entire day at Amgen in Seattle.  We started out the morning by debriefing our site visits.  I’m not going to type out the reviews of the places where I went, so if you’re interested, check out day 4 and day 5.

We were then lead in a discussion by Dr. Thomas McCormick, Professor Emeritus of the UW School of Medicine.  Dr. McCormick lead us in a discussion titled “Bioethics: Clinical Ethics at Work.”  We look at clinical ethics as a set of tools, in which we look at the history of the present illness, review the organ system, look at the psycho-social history, get a physical exam, run laboratory studies, and discuss diagnosis and care plan.  Clinical ethics is made of 2 views- one from a balloon- looking down at a situation big picture wise, and from a mountain bike on a mountain- looking ahead as situations can change very quickly.  We reviewed cases that Dr. McCormick had encountered, and how to reach an ethical outcome.  There were four major topics in clinical ethics: Medical Indications, Patient Preferences, Quality of Life, and Contextual features.  Dr. McCormick’s talk was really engaging, and had me think about a lot about clinical ethics.

In the afternoon, we each split up into different groups.  I was in the stem cell group, in which we looked at planaria and ran through the NWABR stem cell curriculum.  Planaria are really cool because they have neoblasts, which are totiptent.  The NWABR curriculum was really engaging with the use of playdoh in explaining the development of the germ layers.IMG_20130724_142236

3 germ layers in cell development

We ended the day by meeting with groups and discussing our action plans for how we will use this curriculum in our classrooms.  I am fully planning on adding ethics to my 9th grade curriculum, taking from the NIH curriculum on Bioethics, as well as the NWABR Bioethics 101 curriculum..  I also can’t wait to talk about morality in brain development, nuremberg, and human clinical trials during our holocaust unit, in which my coworkers do such a great job of explaining already.IMG_20130724_141335

Modeling development with playdoh

NWABR Bioethics in the Science Classroom, Day 2


Giant Tree in Pack Forrest Woods

Today we started out by looking at a ton of resources that are useful for both Bioethics and general Biology topics.  The list is posted below:


Northwest Association for Biomedical Research




Ethics Updates (University of San Diego)


Genetic Science Learning Center


High School Bioethics Curriculum Project


Genome Sciences- University of Washington


National center for Case Study Teaching in Science


National Institute of Health- Exploring Bioethics


Your Genes, Your Choices: Exploring the Issues Raised by Genetic Research



These topics were really awesome and you can request free resources from a lot of these resources.  I took a look at the National Institute of Health, which are very high quality, and ordered a lot of the free materials.  It is crucial to order these materials soon- as there is uncertainty due to budget constraints.  It appears that there is no funding going to the National Institute of Health in regards to educational outreach, basically getting rid of the office and all materials.


Next, we went through the basic curriculum of Bioethics 101 by NWABR.  We started by reviewing how many of the lead teachers integrate Bioethics into their current classes.  This was interesting, and I’m hoping to have a bioethical part of most of the units that I already cover.  Furthermore, when we cover Matt Killeen, our 9th grade World History teacher covers the Holocaust, I have some great resources on Ethics that came from the Nuremberg code as well as multiple articles that deal with morality.  I am very much interested in this collaboration to better teach our students.


We then reviewed the homework that we had to complete prior to the program.  I ended up reviewing most of the materials on the flight out here to Seattle.  Just the materials that we completed gave even greater understanding to the homework assignment, and I feel like I understand how to teach Ethics at a deeper level.


After lunch, we completed a case study called “Dennis’s Decision.”  This describes an ethical dilemma of treatment of a medical condition with a patient refusing treatment.  This was a very engaging case study, and the NWABR curriculum guides the process very thoroughly.  There’s just something extra when you have curriculum designed by teachers and created for teachers- everything just clicks better than from a textbook.


Finally, we ended the experience today by looking at the question “How much does the volume of a gummy bear increase after soaking in water?”  My group decided to check the gummy bears volume by water displacement.  We’ll look at our results tomorrow.


Gummy Bear Experiment

Soon, it will be dinner time, and tonight at 7 pm we will be watching the movie “Rare.”

NWABR Bioethics, Day 1


I made it out to Seattle around 8:30 pm last night, and was picked up at the airport by Jeanne Ting Chowning, who is the senior director of the NWABR Bioethics Program.  She pointed out some of the sights along the way, including the Cascades, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainier.  The drive took a little less than two hours, and my dorm was already set up when I arrived at Pack Forest.

Today I started out having breakfast around 8, and chatting with other teachers that had arrived early.  More people kept arriving for the program, and we eventually made our way over to Scott hall for the welcome session and introduction to the program.  We talked about which sites we would be able to visit over the course of the week.

Lunch was delicious, it was chili, backed potatoes, and chicken Caesar salad.  We had a break time, and as always I tried to talk to as many different people as possible.  It seems that no matter which conferences I go to, it is always the same high-quality caliber people that attend.

In the afternoon, we talked about setting norms in the classroom, which I think is really important.  I try to do this at the beginning of the year which my students, and I had some good results this year.  The process we went through helped me think about how to improve this aspect of my teaching, and really get students invested in truly carrying out these norms.

We then went through a series of activities.  First, we compared science and ethics on a scale of 1 (being completely subjective) and 10 (being completely objective).  The class average was around an 8 for science and a 5 for ethics. 

Next, we completed an activity in which we looked at what makes an ethical questions.  I can’t wait to incorporate ethical questions into my classroom, because I think it will help students understandings and justifications for answers.  Furthermore, I am switching to an "Essential Question" based assessment for my class, where students have to make justifications using evidence to formulate a response to the unit essential question.

We ended the day by reviewing a "Pandemic Flu" activity, similar to the lifeboat "who would you save" activity.  There were 10 options, of which you could really only save 5, and you had to pick ethical reasoning for why you would save these individuals.  Themes included "Doing the most good," "Protect the Weakest," "Age, Experience & Knowledge," "Most life potential," and "All life is valuable."

Finally, we reflected on the day in our personal binders, and I’m now waiting until dinner time.  After dinner, we will be taking a hike to Mount Rainier.  I’m very much excited for the rest of the weekend and next week, as it seems like this is catered to Biology and will incorporate well into my classroom!