Using Snapshots in the Classroom

We designed Snapshots to provide exactly what its title implies—a snapshot of a single area of biomedical research. That's why we include a scientific overview, a history, a look at the scientists doing the research, and some of the broader implications for society. We also want Snapshots to be a flexible tool for teachers—an enrichment for one or more advanced or highly motivated students, or a program for the entire class. Either way, by deploying Snapshots you can provide your students an opportunity to see how all these elements fit together, and give them a sense of mastery over this one are of research.

The plans below are suggestions only, which you can adapt to the specific circumstances in your classroom. If you develop a plan for using Snapshots that you would be willing to share, please send it to the Snapshots editor at . If it meets our editorial criteria—clearly written and potentially useful to other teachers—we will with your permission post it on the Snapshots site under your byline.

Xenotransplants and Your Curriculum
A unit on the Immune System is the obvious place for this issue of Snapshots in a standard biology curriculum. Indeed, most of the scientific content and background is directly related to immunology. However, this topic could also be added to a unit on genetic engineering techniques—specifically, how these techniques are used to engineer mammals, and the social implications of this technology. Moreover, this issue of Snapshots provides an excellent opportunity to examine the clinical research process, and the ethical considerations when using human subjects in research.

Individual or Class Reading
You could give Snapshots to motivated or advanced students as an extra-credit project or an enrichment activity. You could also give it to an entire class as a reading enrichment assignment. In all cases, I would suggest that you ask students to do more than just read the articles. Some possibilities include:

  • A short oral presentation to the class, or a written summary, of one or more of the articles. Students interested in scientific careers might find the People Doing Science articles particularly interesting.
  • A short oral presentation of a student's opinions on the issues outlined in the Social Impact section. Insist that these opinions be backed up by rational argument and supporting data.

Classroom Activities Each of the activities provided in this package should take one class period. Two of the activities aim to teach concepts connected to the science of xenotransplantation. Activity 1 gives students a lesson in molecular recognition in the immune system, and experience with hands-on model building. Activity 2 asks students to impose order on the cascade of events that lead to xenotransplant rejection. Activity 3 calls on students to articulate various positions on questions of the proper use of animals in research and medicine, as well as other issues in xenotransplantation. See each activity for detailed plans and instructions .

Seminar If you want an in-depth treatment, you could devote several class periods to exploring xenotransplantation, as follows.

  • Before you begin: Give the students the four core articles to read as homework (only Research in the News need be read by the next day; the others can follow)
  • Day 1: Review Research in the News article, emphasizing role of immune system in rejection.
  • Conduct Class Activity 1 on immune recognition.
  • Day 2: Review immune system function. Conduct Classroom Activity 2 on the rejection cascade.
  • Day 3: Conduct Activity 3 on the social questions presented in Social Impact section.
  • Day 4: Your choice. Some possibilities include:
    • Guest speaker: A scientist, research lobbyist, animal rights activist, transplant recipient, or someone else. You will have to find this person locally; see the suggestions under TKTK TKTK for suggestions on how to find someone.
    • Student presentations: Early on, assign (or suggest, or cajole) a few students to prepare short presentations on various topics, such as their news articles or positions on social impact questions.
    • Field trip to a local laboratory involved in immunology research.