Do the Benefits of DDT Outweigh Its Harmful Consequences? | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M4:U2

Do the Benefits of DDT Outweigh Its Harmful Consequences?

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In this unit, students grapple with the question "Do the benefits of DDT outweigh its harmful consequences?" In the first half of the unit, students use a guided researcher's notebook, research folder, and a WebQuest to research informational texts about DDT's benefits and harmful consequences. The researcher's notebook requires students to cite their sources, assess the credibility of each source, paraphrase the information relevant to their research question, and decide if the evidence from their research changes the focus of their inquiry. Students also analyze an author's presentation of information and ideas, and then compare and contrast that presentation of information and ideas with the presentation by another author. Additionally, students revisit strategies they have learned throughout the year to address new vocabulary: context clues, affixes, and resource materials such as dictionaries and thesauruses.

In their mid-unit assessment, students read two unfamiliar informational articles about DDT. They complete a page identical to their researcher's notebook for one article, as well as a graphic organizer in which they compare and contrast the presentation of ideas in these two articles. In the second half of the unit, students work toward making a claim based on the evidence of their research, a similar skill to the work of Module 2 in which students made a claim on which they built a literary argument. Students learn the important skill of sifting through all the materials they have thus far encountered, deciding what is relevant to their research question and what is not. They use a Cascading Consequences chart, visually tracking the chain reaction of a decision, and a Stakeholders chart, tracking who is affected by a decision, as integral tools in making their claim. After reviewing research, considering a particular decision's consequences, and who it affects, students draft and revise a claim about the use of DDT. In their end of unit assessment, students are asked to orally present their final claim to an audience and include the use of multimedia components such as charts and graphs. This claim will launch students in their argument writing of Unit 3.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do we balance the needs of people and the condition of the natural world?
  • Do the benefits of DDT outweigh its harmful consequences?
  • How do I integrate ideas from multiple sources to help me make a claim?
  • Research includes close reading of multiple sources, evaluation of those sources, and collecting relevant information.
  • Thorough research of multiple perspectives of an issue builds toward an informed decision and claim.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about the use of DDT. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.

These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments); impact of human activities on the environment; interactions between regions, locations, places, people, and environments.
  • Theme 9: Science, Technology, and Innovation: Applications of science and innovations in transportation, communication, military, technology, navigation, agriculture, and industrialization.

Social Studies Practices, Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).
  • Descriptor 3: Identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationship between the environment and human activities, how the physical environment is modified by human activities, and how human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes.

Social Studies Practices, Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 1: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).
  • Descriptor 4: Describe and analyze arguments of others.
  • Descriptor 6: Recognize an argument and identify evidence that supports the argument; examine arguments related to a specific social studies topic from multiple perspectives; deconstruct arguments, recognizing the perspective of the argument and identifying evidence used to support that perspective.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Frightful's Mountain
by Jean Craighead George
One per student
ISBN: 978-0141312354, 0141312351


Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite a research librarian in to teach students about best practices in the field of research, including evaluating sources for credibility, finding the most current information on a topic, and contacting experts in the field.
  • Invite a guest speaker from a country affected by the ban on DDT.
  • Invite a local environmentalist to talk about Rachel Carson or the use of pesticides in their local area.

Arrange for a visit to a local research library for students to have hands on experience in an authentic research setting.


  • Collaborate with local environmental agencies to educate the community about the risks of pesticides or the need to protect wildlife.
  • Organize a service project to support countries where malaria continues to be a public health challenge. 


  • Some students may benefit from a more independent research process in which they search for sources relevant to their own lingering questions about the use of DDT.
  • A study of other pesticides and their advantages and disadvantages.
  • A study of a particular species of animal that has been affected by the use of DDT.

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