Organelle Trail - Round-Up (2 Days)

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Students will be able to identify the specific functions of organelles and explain how different organelles work together.

Big Idea

Each cell has organelles that function together allowing the organism to live.

Note to Teachers

The Round-Up for the Organelle Trail makes students develop an analogy for the cell, comparing each organelle to a work crew within a town. Creating analogies helps students create connections between new concepts and previous knowledge. Analogies make information more concrete, provide a structural framework for learning the new concepts and help in the retention and understanding of the new information.

In this particular instance, the analogy makes the students interact with the work done by their peers, recognize patterns within the information (NGSS Practice 4: Analyze and interpret data) and engage in discussions with scientific peers (NGSS Practice 8: Obtain, Evaluate and Communicate Information).


10 minutes

I start the lesson by having students hang their completed posters from the Organelle Trail lesson around the room, and display the Round-up tab of the Organelle Trail website. I explain that their success in this activity relies not in just writing down the names of the organelles, but in giving enough information to convince us that the organelle they choose for each job is the most suited for it.  

I hand out the Organelle Trail gallery walk sheet, and go over the different "crews" to clarify what their job within a town would be. I also go over the rubric for this portion of the mini-project and make sure that students understand that although they will confer with one another (NGSS Practice 8: "Engage in discussions with scientific peers), every one of them is responsible for turning in one sheet.

Gallery Walk

90 minutes

I divide the class into 11 groups (one for each organelle) using a simple count-off, and assign the groups their starting points. I tell the students that at each organelle, the group must discuss the analogy, come to a consensus and leave a post-it with the name of the crew they believe the organelle would be best suited for. They also have to, individually, explain their reasons on their own sheets.

In order to move from one station to another, I set the timer so that students will remain at each poster for ten minutes. This time allows for students to read the information, discuss, come to a consensus and write down their information.

I find that using a gallery walk for this poster presentation allows for the conversation about the cell analogy to happen naturally, and gives students an opportunity to delve more deeply into the structure and function of organelles than if the same information was presented as a lecture or as student presentations. By doing this activity I remove the "I know my organelle really well, but not others", that could present itself if the students had passively listened to each other present their posters. This is what the posters look like.

Although you might be tempted to finish the Round-up in one class period, in my opinion, it is imperative not to rush it. Students are being confronted and asked to interact with a lot of new information. They need time to put it into workable units and develop their understanding.

I asked the students a couple of questions during this walk.

  • Describe the thought process you used to complete this work.
  • Why can't you fill the sheet in order?

These are their answers:

Debrief and Closure

20 minutes

On day two of the gallery walk, and once all teams have had an opportunity to visit all posters and complete their sheets, we have a discussion on what they learned. We go over each of the organelles and talk about the evidence they gave to place them into each of the work crews. 

As an assessment, as well as to encourage critical thinking, I have students complete the "Organelle Trail Think About It" sheet and turn it in individually.

If students finish their think about it sheet with time to spare, I have them individually (or in pairs) visit Sheppard Software's Cell Games or Nobel Prize's The Incredible Megacell to practice what they learned.