Science Teachers Incorporate JLI into Curriculum for First Time

Can the incorporation of journalistic skills—research, interviewing, fact checking, writing, editing, and
sharing information— make science even more engaging for middle schoolers? That’s what the
Journalistic Learning Initiative wanted to find out when approached by two eighth grade science
teachers to bring our program to Hamlin Middle School in Springfield, Ore.

For two weeks in October, 150 eighth graders were taught journalistic skills to explore a unit on GMOs
(genetically modified organisms). Students were asked to find and compare articles on food science and
the pros and cons of genetically altered foods.

After several days of research, each student selected three people to interview, asking their opinions on
GMOs and how much they knew about them and whether they ate such foods. Students then drafted
news articles based on their findings, and they Tweeted facts about GMO’s on the school’s social media

One of the most interesting results of the project, said Lane County Program Manager Jordan Tichenor,
is when trolls [negative messaging on the Internet] began Tweeting anti-GMO information next to the
students’ social posts.

“It gave us an opportunity to discuss the proper way to respond to negativity and misinformation and
the value in replying,” said Tichenor. “We decided that maybe a response wouldn’t change the trolls’
minds, but that a response could be important for other readers who might see the comments and
consider the kids’ facts when evaluating GMO claims, which the troll was unable to provide.”

Science Teachers Zane and Tara were happy with the media literacy and other hands-on skills the
students learned during the project. “The teachers really like the program and want to weave it into
their curriculum again,” said Tichenor. “The JLI method really lends itself to science because it is a fact-
based subject and a field with many different viewpoints that makes for great discussions and deep

Added Tichenor, “Watching the kids’ fully engage with a tough subject and then employ critical thinking
skills in their decision-making was really incredible.”

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