Baggie Cell Models

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Students will build animal cells with metaphorical objects to show their understanding of the functions of cell structures.

Big Idea

Understanding the structure and function of cells.

RAP - Review and Preview

5 minutes

I call students to the gathering area. I remind students that we learned about the different structures that are found within an animal cell, and we learned their functions too.

I tell students that today, we are going to make metaphorical cells. I love telling students this, as many of them look at me quizzically. I tell them that it is possible to mix creative writing and science. Actually, it’s creative building and science.

I ask students if they remember the definition of a metaphor. Student responses are varied, but I lead them towards the idea that symbols represent other things. It is an indirect comparison.

I tell students that they will be building their own cells using objects, from the classroom, that represent the different structures in a cell and their function. I tell students that they will have to justify their choices and explain the metaphor.

Guided and Independent Investigation

40 minutes

I send students back to their desks and tell them to get a piece of paper towel, a sandwich-size Ziploc bag. I go around the room, pouring corn syrup into the baggies to represent the cytoplasm. I use about ½ cup of syrup per bag.

I hand students a rubric and a recording sheet to list what they used, what it represents, and why they chose it. Students choose their metaphorical objects and place them in the bag and complete the recording sheet.

I have materials available in the room to support students in building their cells. I have lego pieces, marbles, paper, straws, pipe cleaners, paper clips, heart-shaped beads, popcorn kernels, and different pasta shapes. Students often come up with their own thoughts as well. They can use any materials in the classroom. We can just wash them when we are done.


Wrap Up and Sharing

20 minutes

I gather students in the gathering area again. Students are given time to share their cells.  To avoid the sharing going on forever, after about the 5th student, I ask that students only share if they chose something different to represent a particular cell structure.

Since it is difficult to paste a corn syrup cell into your interactive science notebook, I take pictures of each child’s cell and print them for inclusion in their interactive science notebooks.


2 minutes

Students are assessed on thoroughness and creativity. I use a rubric for this model as it allows students to see how they did or what they need to do to improve their model. There is often some need for improvement as this is a fairly nebulous assignment.