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Now's Co-operative Newsletter
13 October 2000, #12

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The GE Food Alert Campaign Center

Greetings,

And a warm welcome to new readers. The nights are getting longer and darker. The Winter wind is on the prowl. Dark shadows pause to howl....Autumn's fiery crown is in full splendour. Not really. Actually in Hiroshima it's still quite possible to go out at night in a T-shirt and the leaves are still a defiant green. But the season does give me a theme for this month. Food. Oh yes, and that modern descendent of the Celtic 'Samhein'

Has anyone seen my rutabaga?

Signature

What's In The Fridge

This is a simple activity using pairs of flashcards and played in pairs. Make two small decks. One player shuffles their deck and selects three cards. The second player asks "What's in the fridge?" The first player describes the cards and the second player finds the matching cards. When all three cards have been found players can compare cards to see how many matches they have.

As I mentioned last month information gap activities are useful but can become meaningless and boring if the information isn't important to the students. Using real information that is personal to the students is usually more interesting. The alternative is to make the language silly. Notice that I didn't specify that food flashcards should be used. I tell my students that in my fridge there are two penguins. This usually gets some attention. But only if students know what a fridge is. Without this knowledge there is no humour and the activity plunges back to the level of exercise.

Never take nuffin' for granted.

Here are some crazy cute, no, horrible food cards. I think it's possible to copy them into, say a word file, and print them out (twice to make pairs). Can your students find ways to describe them? Can you lead your students to discover how to describe them in English? Is that a tomato with tentacles or a tentacled tomato? Is that a potato with eyes or a two-eyed potato (an 'eyed potato' doesn't sound right to me).

GE Veggies

Another way to use the cards is to give each student one. Students move around the room swapping cards until you yell "Find a Partner!" At this point students begin looking for someone with a matching card. If they show the cards to each other there's little fun and no language practise. Instead they can say "Do you have a....?" or "I have a......do you?" When students have a partner they go to the whiteboard and write their names or make a mark. After an agreed number of pairs have written on the board either finish or start again by calling out "Start trading!" To encourage students to swap make it a rule that an exchange can't be refused. When doing this with younger students using music helps. They can trade cards while you play music and look for partners when the music stops. Make the language simpler. "Tomato?" Ears?"

Before moving on - here is an empty fridge. Give each student a copy. They can make pairs. One student can draw some contents and describe them to the other who can draw what they hear. Older students with real fridges may like the challenge of remembering what's in their real fridge.

Fridge Game Graphic

Witch Stew

Eye of monkey, ears of cat,
Nose of bear, tail of rat!
Mix it 'til it’s nice and hot
Lovely stew in my black pot!

I've used this chant as a substitution exercise and to practise rhyming. I get students to write their own versions. Changing the body parts is fairly easy. Keeping the rhyme can be difficult. Students that need help can be given pair of rhyming alternatives to choose from (e.g. bug & slug, dog & frog, quail & whale, goat & stoat, fox & ox, bee & flea). Pictures help because students can circle the body part to go in the stew - this can be a way of introducing vocabulary.

Witch StewIf you're having a party then a making witch stew for real goes down well. I use a black bucket I got from a garden centre. It has a tap for liquid to flow out of. I found I could make a false bottom using a plastic tray supported by old cassette boxes. we'd scatter Halloween objects around the room and the Witch (one of the adults dressed up) would make up the recipe as we went along. "I want a big frog!" "I want a green snake!" The children would search for the objects and bring them to the witch. The bucket had a lid so we'd open the lid and toss the objects inside. When the pot was full the witch would announce that the stew was ready. We'd get cups, turn the tap and drink would come out of the bottom. Sometimes we'd add food colouring to make the liquid green or red. In my experience kindergarten children fail to even notice the trick but elementary aged children and older get really curious and want to see inside the pot. The secret is, of course, kept secret!

An Apple a day keeps the doctor at play

In the last issue I introduced the idea of Jigsaw Learning. I suggested that students could be given 'packets' of information so that each would become an expert on part of the whole. By sharing the information the students would be able to get the whole picture. In other words they'd take responsibility for teaching themselves.

This time I'd like to extend the idea a little. Rather than simply giving the students the information they need it's possible to set them tasks which will lead them to the information. Given below is a quiz. I write quiz because I loathe the word test. It's in multiple choice format so it looks like a test. I've been told by some teachers that it's difficult. The purpose isn't to test the students knowledge but to get them thinking about the topic. I created the quiz after one of my adult students asked me about genetically modified food. So I began with a student. I think this is important.

There are two ways to use material like this. One is just to present it, explain vocabulary as required and encourage the students to guess. Another is to create a list of questions to give the students as homework. Rather than giving the whole list to every student share the questions. If possible give each student a different question. Tell them to use libraries and the internet to search for the answer. Be prepared to give them help with how to search. Helping people to learn how to do something is much more beneficial than teaching them what to do. Give them some time to search for themselves. Encourage them to search using as many languages as they command. Using their own language is, of course, a natural and fine thing to do. Make the whole process into a kind of real life detective game. Concentrate on the process rather than the result.

Here are some questions.

  1. What famous book did Mary Shelley write? What was the story about?
  2. What is hayfever? What causes it?
  3. What is organic farming. How does it differ from other ways of farming?
  4. What is Gregor Mendel famous for?
  5. How do plants reproduce?
  6. What is a mutant?
  7. Which company produces "roundup ready"? What is it?
  8. What is herbicide? What other English words ending in 'cide' can you find?
  9. Who is FrankenTony? What does he want?
  10. What is Novartis? What does it sell?
  11. What is food poisoning?
  12. What kind of information can you find on labels in supermarkets?
These questions are scene-setters. They don't provide specific answers to the questions in the quiz. I feel this indirect approach is important. By telling students what to focus on we are telling them what is important. We destroy learning if we turn it into an exercise in grubbing for predetermined answers. Yes, the quiz below does have answers but they are not more important than information and understanding students can share and gain with each other.

Finally students can be asked to predict their score after taking the quiz. It's more important for them to be able to assess their performance than get the answers right. I tell students that they can measure their success by how accurate their predictions are. The percentage of correct answers is irrelevant. I've taken this attitude with children and it does help them to focus more on what they know and what they've done rather than what they don't know. Too often tests and even assessments focus on what is not known or on mistakes. I think if you are going to have a 'real' test then all the students should be able to get 100%. But that's another story.

Here's the quiz:

Frankenfood Quiz

1. In the phrase 'GM food' GM stands for:

a) gently manufactured

b) General Motors

c) genetically modified

d) great money

2. In Britain the safety levels regarding toxin in crops was recently changed to suit the GM industry. The amount of toxin allowed has increased:

a) 10 times

b) 50 times

c) 100 times

d) 100 times

3. Some scientists are against the labelling of foods using GM crops. Why?

a) Some scientists say GM foods are safe and therefore don't need labelling.

b) Some scientists say people won't buy GM foods if they are labelled.

c) Some scientists say labelling is pointless because it will be impossible to keep GM crops and non-GM crops apart.

d) All of the above are true

4. GM crops can cross-pollinate with non GM crops producing new GM crops. At a distance of one kilometre what percentage of potatoes is likely to be affected:

a) 12%

b) 36%

c) 55%

d )72%

5. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is concerned by the affect GM trees may have on the environment. WWF fears gene pollution. How far can Pine tree pollen travel?

a) 600 Kilometres

b) 300 Kilometres

c) 60 Kilometres

d) 30 Kilometres

6. Recently Aventis Corporation suspended sales of Starlink Corn. The corn was being used in taco shells produced by Kraft. Kraft has recalled the taco shells. What was the problem?

a)The corn was only approved for animal consumption.

b)The corn contains a protein called Cry9C a possible allergen for humans.

c) There was no effective way to track the distribution of the corn.

d)All of the above are true.

7. 1998 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture estimated that 23-34% of US corn was genetically altered. In the same year Japan imported 14.7 million tonnes of corn from the US. What percentage of total corn imports was that?

a) 32%

b) 48%

c) 72%

d) 87%

8. It is estimated that Japan will import 16 million tonnes of corn this fiscal year. How much of it will be classified as free of genetic engineering?

a) 3-4%

b 6-7%

c) 12-15%

d) 18-20%

9. Labelling of most foods containing GM produce will be required by law in Japan. From when?

a) April 2001

b) August 2001

c) January 2002

d)April 2002

10. Which of the following statements is not true?

a) There is no independent safety testing of GM corn.

b) Pollen from GM corn killed endangered butterflies.

c) Organically produced food is more likely to contain E. Coli bacteria than GM food.

d)The British Advertising Standards authority upheld 81 complaints about GM food giant Monsanto advertising in 1999.

Answers!

Q1: a

Q2: d (Source: Daily Mail, September 22, 1999) The claim was made by the retiring head of food safety at Sainsbury's - Britain's largest Supermarket chain. Note that toxin levels remain very low - they just got 200 times higher.

Q3: d (Though possibly not the same scientists.)

Q4: d (Skogsmyr I (1994) Gene dispersal from transgenic potatoes to conspecifics: A field trial. Theor. Appl. Genet 88: 770-774.)

Q5: a

Q6: d

Q7: b (Trends in Food in Japan: August 2000)

Q8: b

Q9: a

Q10: c

An Ending?

Visionaries:

Mary Shelley - background etc
Mary Shelley - untried mind resources

Gregor Mendel - the pea man

Adversaries:

Organic Consumer's Association

True Food Network

Union of Concerned Scientists

General & Specific:

Time on FrankenFood (1999)

Genetic Engineering & it's Dangers

Into the Spider's Lair:

Monsanto (UK)
(The company that recently abandoned Terminator Seed Technology)

Novartis
(The company that sells GM seeds but won't buy GM crops)

What’s Halloween?

What’s Halloween?
Halloween is for me and you.
What’s Halloween?
Witch stew.
What’s Halloween?
Dressing up and wearing a mask.
What’s Halloween?
Shsh, don’t ask.
What’s Halloween?
Witches and ghosts in the street.
What’s Halloween?
Trick or Treat.
What’s Halloween?
Bobbing for apples in a pan.
What’s Halloween?
The Headless Horseman.
What’s Halloween?
Things that go bump in the night.
What’s Halloween?
Monster Party Night.
What’s Halloween?
The return of the dead.
What’s Halloween?
That’s enough – it’s time for bed.

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Note: Now's Co-operative Newsletter used photos to link to other sites. Some links have been replaced as the original websites have disappeared. Accordingly notall photos lead back to the sites they came from. Spelling has been left as was - ouch!

For the record:

Unfortunately the Time article only appears available by subscription. I wrote that Monsanto had abandoned terminator seed technology. Too strong a verb. How long Monsanto will refrain from using "terminator seed technology" remains to be seen - but probably not for too long...

last updated: 3rd August 2005

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