Who Has the Greatest Voice?

Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 2-3 periods in the computer lab and 2-3 periods for the Senate Hearing, which is the project part of the learning cycle
Copy role cards for senate hearing
Prepare introduction and lecture on the legislative process.
Photocopy student instructions: “Your Task”
Materials: Websites
Access to computer lab
Student role cards and instruction sheets


This culminating lesson will allow students to apply what they have learned previously by participating in a role-playing activity. The significance of this lesson is that it allows students to better understand the role that interest groups have in impacting government legislation and congressional oversight. This lesson also allows the teacher to take the students beyond the textbook in order to show the realistic manner in which government agencies, congressional committees and interest groups interact to deal with health issues. As was stated in the first lesson in this cycle, skin cancer was chosen as the model as it is a very relevant topic for teens today. However, many other health issues can easily be substituted.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify the impact that interest groups, scientists, government health organizations and legislators have on health issues in the United States.
2. Explain the role of the committee hearing in the lawmaking process.
3. Identify biased arguments presented by diverse interest groups.

National Standards For Civics and Government
I-A What is civic life? What is politics? What is government? Why are government and politics necessary? What purposes should government serve?
I-B What are the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited government?
III-A. How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
III-B. How is the national government organized and what does it do?
V-B. What are the rights of citizens?

Teacher Background
To prepare for this lesson review the lawmaking process and discuss how mark-up sessions and hearings by standing committees are the major step in the lawmaking process. A good resource is HOW OUR LAWS ARE MADE: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/lawsmade.toc.html. The step in the process that will be used in this lesson is: Step VI- Consideration by committee. The legislation that will be proposed to the Senate Committee may be modeled after the California Bill that can be accessed at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/03-04/bill/asm/ab_2151-2200/ab_2193_bill_20040322_amended_asm.html

The teacher and students may refer to the Language Arts lesson: “Two Specific Documents” to access the guidelines on writing a position paper.

Resource Websites
http://www.lotion4you.com/indoor-tanning-association.html Indoor Tanning Association Resources
http://www.suntanningedu.com/html Sun tanning Association for Education
http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/html Sunwise Program sponsored by the EPA
http://www.shadefoundation.org/index.php SHADE Foundation and “Shonda’s Story- a Melanoma survivor”
http://help.senate.gov/html Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/skincancer.html skin cancer information from NIH and scroll down the page for information on clinical trials
http://www.aad.org/html Academy of Dermatology Association
http://alep.unibase.com/sunconf/papers/kheidorn.html “The Impacts of Ozone Layer Depletion on Human Health”
http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/Ozone_Depletion/ozone_depletion.html For case information on ozone depletionhttp://www.cwla.org/html Child Welfare League of America (Interest Group for teens’ rights)
http://www.aclu.org/html American Civil Liberties Union (Interest Group for teens’ rights)
California Bill AB2193 (amended version)
http://www.nci.nih.gov/clinicaltrials For NIH (National Institute of Health) Reviewer of skin cancer clinical trials



Prior to introducing the lesson, photocopy the role cards and either have students draw a card randomly or assign them a role card. Students will need two-three class periods in the computer lab or they may do the research component as homework to save class time and/or if the computer lab is not available.

In recent months, at least two states - New Hampshire and California – have passed regulations prohibiting teenagers from patronizing tanning booths. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) supports that law and is urging more states to pass similar legislation. The AAD wants federal legislation that will prohibit tanning equipment for all non-medical use by people under 18 and advocates that tanning facilities should not be allowed to advertise that they can provide a "safer" tan.

Studies show that children do not limit their exposure to the suns rays. “Researchers gave a questionnaire to children in all 50 states, ages 12-18. Only a third of the children reported routine use of sunscreen during the previous summer, and nearly 10 percent of respondents used a tanning bed during the previous year. Most of the children reported sun burning at least once, and half of children who burned more than once agreed that it was worth burning to get a tan later on. The researchers concluded that a nationally coordinated effort is needed to prevent skin cancer in a new generation of children and adolescents.” (Teach Your Teens the Benefits of Staying Out of the Sun; From Denise Witmer: Your Guide to Parenting of Adolescents).In addition statistics show that less than 4% of the schools in the U.S. have sun protection policies (www.scma.org/magazines/scp/spo3/sugarman.html) . In light of these findings the AAD is also pursuing legislation that would mandate all public schools K-12 provide education about skin cancer prevention that may be modeled after the SunWise Program endorsed by the EPA.

Photocopy and hand out the following information for all the students

Your Task:
A bill is being introduced to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions that would prohibit a person less than 18 years of age from using a tanning device except upon prescription by a physician and/or surgeon for treatment of a medical condition. The bill would also make a tanning facility that violates this provision liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500 per day for each violation. In addition, the bill also mandates a SunWise education program for K-12 public schools. You will be assigned a “role” to play during a mock senate hearing before the committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. The purpose of the hearing is to consider arguments presented by interested parties who represent both sides of the issue. You will prepare for the hearing by researching the issue from the point of view of your assigned role.

At the hearing you will be asked to make an oral presentation (3-5 minutes) in which you will present the arguments that support your point of view. You should also be prepared to refute the arguments that will be made by opposing interests as well as answer questions asked by members of the senate committee. A good presentation should include factual evidence and documented case studies that illustrate your point of view. In addition you should try to act out your role as much as possible in order to present a convincing argument.

The presentation should follow the guidelines outlined in your Language Arts class on writing position papers.

2. Have students draw a “Role Card” (See attachment 1)
+ Teen survivor of melanoma + Teen who uses a tanning booth
+ Mother of teen who died from melanoma + Owner of a Tanning Booth
+ Interest Group (Shade Foundation) + Teen who works in a tanning booth
+ Sunwise Representative + Interest group (Suntanning Assoc. for Education)
+ Member of American Medical Association + Interest group (Indoor Tanning) +Member of Academy of Dermatology + Doctor who studies Vitamin D deficiency
+ EPA Rep. - Scientist who studies ozone depletion + NIH Reviewer of skin cancer clinical

+ Member of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (recommended 5 -6 students)
3. Students will spend the remainder of the lesson in the computer lab finding facts, figures, and quotes that support the position of the interest group whom they are representing. They should be prepared to give a focused presentation in support of their position that is full of specific information and does not rely on generalizations or opinions that cannot be backed up with statistics.

The senate committee hearing will conclude with the members of the committee announcing the recommendation they will make to the full senate regarding the bill.

Students will prepare for the senate hearing by preparing their arguments and position papers. Time will also be given in the English class to work on these two assignments.

Embedded Assessment
Students will be assessed on their presentations at the senate hearing.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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