Congressman Bill Foster Responds to Joliet Central School Student Biology Research
As school districts across Illinois begin to implement the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Joliet Township High School is working hard to ensure that students are experiencing relevant curricular projects that push students to think critically, while applying the information that they learn.
A recent project developed by Joliet Central teachers Karen Blunk and Eric Jern provided Biology students with firsthand knowledge of research and debate regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are particularly relevant in today’s society where there is an overall concern about the effects of processed food on the body. Students researched and debated over whether food companies should be required to label foods that have been genetically modified.
The final aspect of the project required students to write letters to Congressman Bill Foster stating their stance on the issue. In their letters, students were required to state their position on the topic, use facts and details to support their position and present the side of the opposition.
Congressman Foster was intrigued by the student’s letters and responded soon after the letters were delivered.
According to Blunk, prior to the assignment, most of the students were not aware that over 75 percent of all grocery store food contains GMO ingredients.
“Now that the students are educated on the topic, they are comfortable with the process of genetically modifying foods. However, about 70 percent of the students want to have labels,” Blunk said. “They feel that without the labels, scientists/government/farmers are trying to hide something.”
Similar to Blunk’s freshman, Jern’s students were also split on whether foods should require labels.
“It was amazing to watch their opinions evolve over time,” he said. “It was also exciting that we had such a split of opinions, which the students were able to back up with facts.”
Freshman Samantha Hatz expressed some indecision on the topic in her letter to Foster.
“I am torn on the issue,” Hatz said. “Part of me believes that GMOs completely go against nature, but I have also grown up eating GMOs without knowing it. I am very split on the topic of GMO'S itself.”
In his response to the letters, Foster thanked the students for working to understand this issue that is currently being debated by the House of Representatives.
“Currently, the House of Representatives is debating H.R. 1699, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act of 2013,” Foster wrote. “If passed, this legislation would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require that genetically engineered food and foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients be labeled accordingly.”
Blunk, Jern and all the students involved in this project were equally excited to receive a response from Foster on the topic.
“I was excited to see that their opinions were heard and the debate that we had in class is the same one that the House is debating on now too,” Blunk said. “This was a great way to turn the science skills students learn in the classroom into a relevant, engaging topic.”