History of Medicine
Middle School | High School
High School Lesson Plan:
"It's Alive!": Frankenstein and the Limits of Medical Research
Grade Levels: 9-12
Time Needed: Two 45-minute periods
Description: In this lesson, students are guided to address the questions, "What is acceptable scientific advance?" and "What is the role of an individual in determining acceptability of a scientific endeavor?" In Class 1, students use short excerpts of the novel and a clip of the 1931 film Frankenstein to examine what Dr. Frankenstein and his science have represented. In Class 2, students consider the who and how the acceptability of a scientific work is debated via two sections of the online exhibition, Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secretes of Nature. Students reflect and summarize their comprehension about the class discussions and materials by answering two questions, which include minimum one reference to an aspect of the Frankenstein.
Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to:
- Compare and communicate how a literary story may be changed as it is adapted into a film.
- Identify the metaphors that "Dr. Frankenstein" and his creature represent.
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the ethical challenges over new scientific and technological advances.
- Recognize that scientific and technological progress can be affected by social issues and challenges, and name at least two examples.
- Develop an understanding of the importance of scientific literacy among individuals in an increasingly technologically-driven society.
Background Information: The Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature exhibition looks at the world from which Mary Shelley came, at how popular culture has embraced the Frankenstein story, and at how Shelley's creation continues to illuminate the blurred, uncertain boundaries of what we consider "acceptable" science. Teachers are encouraged to preview all sections of the online exhibition. This lesson plan specifically draws its instructional materials form the "Promise and Peril" section of the exhibition.
In addition, teachers may review the following online resources to expand on or adapt the lesson plan to meet the needs of students' interests and levels:
- Frankenstein; or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. Available at The Online Literature Library site at )http://www.literature.org/authors/shelley-mary/frankenstein/ (accessed 10/29/2010)
- "Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination" by Stefan Riedel, MD, PhD http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200696/ (accessed 10/29/2010)
- MedlinePlus a free consumer health information from the National Library of Medicine (accessed 10/29/2010)
The following words and phrases may be introduced/incorporated into the lessons.
- general terms: brainchild, buoyant, epitomize, hideous, interspecies, progeny, usurping
- medical terms: cloning, dissection, genetic, genome, lesions, marrow, transplant, xenograft
- Excerpts from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (PDF)
- Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film (PDF) (MSWord)
- Teacher's Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film (PDF)
- "The Cow Pock-or-the-Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!" a cartoon etching by James Gillray, 1802. (accessed 10/29/2010)
- Summarize and Reflect (PDF) (MSWord)
Other materials and set-ups:
- a display set-up for the class (e.g., overhead projector and screen, smart- or promethium-board, etc.)
- materials for class display include all student handouts listed above Projector for computer
- a copy of the 1931 film, "Frankenstein," staring Colin Clive and Boris Karloff, or available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H3dFh6GA-A. (accessed 10/29/2010)
Class 1 Procedures:
- Assess students prior experiences with and assumptions about Frankenstein by posing couple questions such as:
- Who is Frankenstein?
- How did you learn about him? (a play, movies, the original novel, commercials, etc. )
- What did the 'Frankenstein' represent in those encounters?
- Guide the class discussion to clarify the following key points:
- Frankenstein is the doctor in the story who brings to life and creates his 'monster.'
- Frankenstein story debuted first as a novel written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and published in 1818 under the title of Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus.
- "Frankenstein" often is used as a metaphor for unruly, dangerous, monstrous, or frightening deeds/consequences, which may be real, anticipated, or imagined.
- Tell students that this class will examine the moment when Dr. Frankenstein succeeds in bringing his creature to life in the novel and in a film, debuted in 1818 and 1931, respectively.
- Display Excerpts from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus for the class and note that the excerpts are from the Chapter 5 of the novel. Read aloud the excerpts as students listen.
- Show the clip from Frankenstein (1931), starting where Dr. Frankenstein explains to Dr. Waldman about his discovery of "the great ray that first brought life into the world" and ending where Frankenstein exclaims "…now I know what it feels like to be God!" [Note: The clip is about four minutes and available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H3dFh6GA-A. (accessed 10/29/2010)]
- Hand out copies of Excerpts from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and the Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film worksheet to each student. Review the worksheet as a class.
- Allow students to view the film clip once more and to re-read the excerpts as they work in pairs to complete the worksheet.
- Guide the class discussion by having student pairs to volunteer their responses from the completed worksheet. See Teacher's Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film for suggested discussion guide.
- Introduce the following question and conduct a brief discussion: Is the Dr. Frankenstein's work an acceptable scientific work? Why or why not?
- Tell students that they will further examine in the next class, how and why some new scientific and technological discoveries have stirred apprehension or fear among people.
- Class 1 Evaluation: Use student participation in the class discussions and collect completed Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film worksheets for evaluation.
Class 2 Procedures:
- Return to students the completed Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film worksheets from previous class. Ask students to read over their worksheets to help them review and recall the class discussions in the previous class.
- Remind students about the last question from Class 1, #9: Is the Dr. Frankenstein's work an acceptable scientific work? Why or why not? And tell them that this question has been highlighted in an online exhibition called, Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature.
- Display the home page of Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature and tell students that they will draw from this exhibition to further explore the question.
- Introduce a cartoon illustration from 1802 from the exhibition's "The Search for Balance" section, by displaying or distributing copies of the cartoon etching titled, The Cow Pock-or-the-Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! (accessed 10/29/2010)
- Ask students to examine the cartoon and share their observations and analyses about what it illustrates and what message it conveys. Highlight that this cartoon from 1802 preceded the publication of Frankenstein in 1818, but both express an apprehension and fear over "powerful new technology."
- Have students compare and contrast between Dr. Frankenstein's science (creating life) and Dr. Jenner's science (vaccine) then answer whether they think each science is acceptable or not and why.
- Display the "Promise and Peril" section from the online exhibition, Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature. Read aloud the content on the "Promise and Peril" page then list the "powerful new" discoveries mentioned—i.e., atomic bomb, interspecies organ transplants, genetic engineering, and cloning.
- Allow students to refer to their answers to #5 of the Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film worksheet and add to the list.
- Display the following questions and have students share how they may answer the following questions for each item on the list:
- Is the new discovery/capability inherently problematic? Why or why not?
- Who and how do we assess and determine whether the new discovery/capability is beneficial and acceptable?
- What is your role and responsibility, as a member of the society, in determining whether a scientific or technological advance is acceptable and beneficial?
- Distribute a copy of Summarize and Reflect to each student to complete. Have couple students volunteer their answers and collect their completed Summarize and Reflect for evaluation.
- Class 2 Evaluation: Use student participation in the class discussions and collect completed Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film and Summarize and Reflect worksheets for evaluation.
In addition to observing and assessing students during class discussions, teachers can evaluate student progress and understanding by reviewing completed Frankenstein of the Novel and in Film and Summarize and Reflect worksheets from each student.
Assign students to a team research project where each team selects a scientific topic for a research and evaluation of its "acceptability." Each team then present and inform other students about the their research and findings in a poster or multimedia presentation. The assignment can also result in teams debating their positions.
National Education Standards
- Standard 11. Understands the nature of scientific knowledge
- Knows ways in which science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge (e.g., use of empirical standards, logical arguments, skepticism)
- Understands the ethical traditions associated with the scientific enterprise (e.g., commitment to peer review, truthful reporting about the methods and outcomes of investigations, publication of the results of work) and that scientists who violate these traditions are censored by their peers
- Standards 12. Understands nature of scientific inquiry
- Knows that scientists conduct investigations for a variety of reasons. (e.g., to discover new aspects of the natural world, to explain recently observed phenomena, to test the conclusions of prior investigations, to test the predictions of current theories)
- Knows that investigations and public communication among scientists must meet certain criteria in order to result in new knowledge and methods. (e.g., arguments must be logical and demonstrate connections between natural phenomena, investigations, and the historical body of scientific knowledge; the methods and procedures used to obtain evidence must be clearly reported to enhance opportunities for further investigation)