For Educators

Stem Cell Research – Background


In this lesson, students will explore the controversy generated by embryonic stem cell research, paying particular attention to the question of whether it is ethical. Students will consider a variety of opposing perspectives on the controversy as they gather information from community guest speakers, Web-based research, collaborative discussion, and role-playing. Using a debate model, students will assume the roles of different interest groups and then prepare, present and defend their positions.

Grade Level:

Grades 9-12

(Especially appropriate for older students with some higher-level knowledge of science/biology.)

Time Allotment:

5-7 class periods

Note: The time needed for each learning activity is approximate. It will vary depending on the particular needs and skills of your students, as well as on course parameters and time constraints.

Subject Matter:

Bioethics; Biology; U.S. History; U.S. Government; Culture and Society; Sociology; Religion; English/ Language Arts.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Explore the field of stem cell research and understand what it can potentially offer to the field of medicine.
  • Use analytical skills to explore and understand the controversy surrounding stem cell research, especially embryonic stem cell research.
  • Explore a particular perspective on the issue through research and role-playing.
  • Work cooperatively in small groups.
  • Hone position-development, debate, and coalition-building skills.
  • Prepare and present the position they have researched during a class debate.
  • Understand the following vocabulary: stem cells, embryos, embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, conception, fertilization, pro-life.


Click here to see the academic standards for this lesson plan.