The Future of Reproduction

From FUTURESTATES collection, lesson plan 11 of 13

Audience: This lesson is designed for high school students of all ability levels.

Duration: This lesson should take 2-3 days, depending on the class length. In the first activity (day one), students will analyze the film to determine which aspects of the story appear to be possible now and which aspects do not. In the second activity (day two), they will read and respond to an article about surrogate mothers.

Summary of the Lesson: In the past, science fiction writers have predicted or inspired later technological developments in the real world. They were able to respond creatively to perceived future needs and desires. This lesson pairs the exploration of a specific need — the need for surrogate mothers — with an imaginative look at the future.

Students will watch Silver Sling, a film in which a young, impoverished woman considers becoming a surrogate despite possible long-term consequences. After discussing the film, students will read a nonfiction article about American and European couples who travel to India to find surrogate mothers. Students will consider the advantages and disadvantages of this practice.

Students will compare and contrast the film with the article. In the closing activity, students will consider creatively where our current situation might lead.

(Note to teachers: some students may see a connection between traveling abroad to find a surrogate mother and traveling abroad to adopt a child. They are not the same, of course, but this could become a sensitive issue to a student who was adopted from a foreign country by an American couple. Teachers should be prepared to work with students for whom this is an issue.)

National Educational Standards: This lesson addresses the following Common Core standards in literature:

For grades 9-10
Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

For grades 11-12
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Curricula Writer: Carla Beard teaches high school English in Indiana. She often presents at NCTE and has served as Teacher in Residence for the Indiana Department of Education, where she helped teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. She maintains Web English Teacher, a web-based resource for English Language Arts teachers.


Teacher Preparation

  • Preview the film, which is about 10 minutes long.
  • Set up web access to view the film online.
  • Have a projector available so that all students can view the film.

Lesson Structure

Beginning (Mixed large/small group activity, 5-10 minutes)
Present students with the following question. Give them a few minutes to talk to a partner before asking for their response. Compile answers at the front of the room.

All of the following statements are true except one. Which statement is false?

  • The word “robot” was invented by Karel Capek, a Czechoslovakian playwright, in 1921.
  • Geostationary communications satellites were first proposed by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in 1945.
  • Author Philip K. Dick included the first computer touch screens in his short story “Minority Report” in 1956.
  • Flip phones were inspired by the Gene Roddenberry TV series Star Trek.
  • After reading about an Invisibility Cloak in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Department of Defense researchers developed invisibility uniforms for the United States Army.

(Answer: the last one is false. An invisibility cloak has been developed, but so far it only works on something about the size of a strand of hair. All of the other statements are true.)

In each of the examples above, creative writers were able to envision a technological development before scientists and engineers could make it happen. What technology would you like to see developed to address a current need? (Answers will vary. Encourage students to think in terms of current issues, like a nonpolluting fuel or vaccines for cancer or AIDS.)

Follow up the brainstorming by asking if students could envision any drawbacks to the development of these technologies. (Answers will vary. We have already seen problems with pollution from millions of discarded cell phones and computers. We have also seen problems with bacteria that resist even our strongest medications.)

Middle and End (Time needed will vary.)
Remind students of the initial activity, in which science fiction writers envisioned technological developments to meet specific needs. Tell students that they will now watch a short fictional film set in a future in which top female corporate executives are encouraged to hire surrogates rather than to take time off from their jobs to have babies.

As they view the film, ask students to watch for two specific things:

  • What technology exists in the film that we don’t have now?
  • What unintended consequences have developed because of this technology?

Then show the film Silver Sling, which lasts about 10 minutes. Discuss student responses to the film in a large group briefly. Then divide students into small groups to discuss one more question:

  • Are the young women who are hired as surrogates treated fairly? Why do you think that they are or are not treated fairly?

After a few minutes of discussion, compile the main ideas from the student responses and save them for tomorrow’s lesson.


Download activity handouts and lesson plan materials at

Teacher Preparation: Students need access to the article found here. (Teachers may wish to print the article to avoid commercial content and unrelated links.)

Lesson Structure

Beginning (5-10 minutes)
Open class by reviewing students’ statements from the end of yesterday’s lesson. Tell them that today they will read an article about modern surrogate mothers in India.

Middle (Time needed will vary.)
Distribute a copy of the article “Surrogate Mothers: Womb for Rent” and the discussion questions (see handout). As a pre- reading activity, read the discussion questions aloud together. Then encourage students to read the article with a partner and work together to answer the questions. When everyone has finished, discuss the questions from the handout together.

(Note to teachers: some students may need additional support for this activity. Consider giving them the article in advance or giving them a copy that has the passages containing key concepts highlighted. The T-Chart Graphic Organizer included in the supplemental documents may also be useful.)

End (Time needed will vary.)
Ask students to respond to these questions: * What attitude does the writer of the article seem to have toward surrogacy? What attitude does the filmmaker of Silver Sling seem to have? * What details in the article and the film best reveal attitude or tone? * A topic becomes controversial when both sides have a good point, and the topic lacks a middle ground on which people can agree. What facts or beliefs might make a person favor surrogacy? What facts or beliefs might make a person oppose surrogacy? Which side do you agree with more, and why?

Informal Assessment: As an informal assessment, students could contribute a prediction to the Predict-O-Meter. (See page 8.)

Additional Resources
Additional information on the surrogacy that made Dr. Patel famous: * * *


  • Investigate and analyze predictions for Silver Sling as posted on the FUTURESTATES Predict-O-Meter.
  • Formulate and post their prediction on the Predict-O-Meter site.

Beginning (5-7 minutes)
Review the discussions about surrogacy, real and fictional. This introduction is simply to “reactivate prior knowledge.”

Middle (30-35 minutes)
Students will investigate predictions presented on the Predict-O-Meter located on the FUTURESTATES website. After selecting and evaluating three of the predictions using the evaluation rubric, students will develop at least one prediction of their own to post on the website. The proposed prediction will be evaluated by a peer and approved by the instructor before posting. The predictions may alter the course projected in the Predict-O-Meter predictions. Students may require an example of a valid prediction. Using the rubric to instruct the students, prepare a sample prediction and lead the class in an analysis of the statement. The following is an example of a proposed prediction and the evaluation of it using the prepared rubric.

Proposed prediction: “In 2025, the round arm scar of surrogate mothers becomes fashionable, and urban women volunteer to become surrogates just so they can have the scar. Surrogate agencies like Silver Sling see record profits due to a cost decrease.”

  • Is the prediction based on realistic possibilities? Yes. Fashion and fads are highly unpredictable.
  • Do the consequences of the prediction support the film? Yes. Surrogacy is presented in a very positive light.
  • Do known events in the past support the prediction? Yes, the round arm scar can be compared to a tattoo.
  • Is this prediction plausible? This depends on the evaluator’s opinion, based on the evidence presented in defense of the prediction.
  • Film module:
    Silver Sling
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