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SUBJECTS — Medicine; Science;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Illness, Disabilities; Marriage; Families in Crisis;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility; Caring.
Age: 13+; MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for child's life threatening ordeal); Drama; 1993; 135 minutes; Color.
This is the almost true story of Lorenzo Odone, his parents, and their fight against a terrible disease, adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). The tale begins when Lorenzo, then age 5, is diagnosed with the disease. The doctors give him a prognosis of relentlessly increasing disability and death within two years. There is no treatment. The Odones won't accept this verdict and embark on a dramatic search for a way to save their son.
Merely watching this film is a hard-hitting life experience. It can serve as a motivator in the study of the scientific method, chemistry, biology, neurology, and genetics. The movie is an excellent introduction to the medical research establishment and to the ethics of clinical trials. Lorenzo's Oil teaches courage, persistence and that sometimes motivated people can achieve the impossible. It also shows that the disabled are real people with feelings and intelligence. The film explores some of the problems in getting society to take note of and to address extremely rare diseases.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Lorenzo's Oil contains sections on the scientific method, the medical ethics of clinical trials, and critical viewing skills. The Guide provides a list of introductory concepts that will enhance students' understanding of the movie, a comprehension test, and a set of discussion questions on medical ethics.
TeachWithMovies.com also supplies three detailed lesson plans with unit tests and other materials for which the film can be a motivator. They are:
* Predicting Combinations for Alleles in a Zygote Using Punnett Squares -- Middle School/Jr. High and High School Biology;
* The Development of Lorenzo's Oil, Strange Twists of Fate, and the Scientific Method -- a mental exercise in applying the scientific method and developing hypotheses in a real world situation -- Middle School/Jr. High and High School Science, with particular relevance to Biology; and
* How Soap Cleans -- illustrating several different types of atomic and intermolecular bonding in molecules with tails made up of hydrocarbon chains -- Middle School/Jr. High and High School Chemistry.
The Learning Guide also provides information about the disease suffered by Lorenzo, an update on what has happened to him and his family since the movie was filmed, and discussion questions on the substantive, character development, and ethical themes raised by the movie.
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Lorenzo's Oil will help teach a host of topics relating to biology and the ethics of scientific research.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below a paragraph from the Learning Guide to Lorenzo's Oil.
The movie contains a key factual error that provides an excellent opportunity to teach the scientific method. At the time the movie was released, scientific studies had demonstrated that Lorenzo's Oil did not work for other ALD patients who, like Lorenzo, had already developed symptoms of the disease. Lorenzo's reaction to the Oil was an anomaly. (We are not aware of any explanation for why the Oil worked with Lorenzo.) The worries of the scientists and ALD Foundation leaders about holding out false hope to families (concerns that were ridiculed in the movie) turned out to be entirely justified. Then, in a twist of fate, scientific studies completed ten years after the film was made found Lorenzo's Oil to be effective in preventing ALD in a different group of people, boys with the ALD genetic defect who did not yet have neurological symptoms. Ironically, these studies were performed by Dr. Hugo Moser. In the movie, the character modeled on Dr. Moser, Dr. Nikolais, is portrayed as the epitome of the unresponsive medical establishment. TWM's Lesson Plan -- The Development of Lorenzo's Oil, Strange Twists of Fate, and the Scientific Method uses these circumstances as the basis for an exercise in applying the scientific method and developing hypotheses in a real world situation.
The Learning Guide to the film Lorenzo's Oil contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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