Life in a Box (Day # 1 of 3)

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SWBAT develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting organelles within a cell. (HS-LS1-2)

Big Idea

Life is like a box... It has a defined boundary, things can go into and out of it and the action happens inside of it!

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson students will understand that the box can be a simple analogy for any and all cells. It has definite boundaries, things can go into and out of it and the interior space is where the action happens. Through completing this project, students will produce a cell model in which the similarities and differences among and between animal, plant, and bacterial cells are described. Additionally, students will describe the similarities and differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Lastly, they will match the basic functions of the major organelles.

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

15 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to develop and use scientific models?

Grasping how to unveil a project? G.R.A.S.P. it!

I mean: Goal. Role. Audience. Strong Verb. Product.

 Introduce the details of the project using this format according to the Cell Box Project. As I unpack the project, I emphasize they key attributes of the project. The photos of my finished project are the most informative artifacts for my students.

Additionally, I provide a copy of the rubric to inform how students are to complete the project. In this way, there should be very few questions students may have as they embark on creating their own cell model. 

Once the project attributes have been described, I provide students with two Post-it notes on which students respond to the two "Wrapping Up" prompts. Students place these on the screen (upon which the PPT slide is projected) under each heading (Facts... and Questions). This is my opportunity to assess what students seem to know and understand regarding the project. It also brings to bear any questions that students still have after the initial project unveiling. I can then address project misconceptions (if any exist) and answer questions before the bulk of the project begins.

So, to answer the teaching challenge, at least in part, is to scaffold in necessary content, articulate the desired attributes of the project (GRASP acronym), share a finished product sample and grading rubric to inform the student's next steps.


Instructional Input/Student Activities

40 minutes

As my students and I delve into the inner workings of the cell, an obvious mental barrier that many, if not all, students encounter is how very small they are! Of course, that's where microscopy can help visualize the infinitesimal structures of the cell.

Before we get to microscopy however, students need to learn about the basic structure and function of typical cells. To do so my I use a video-based lecture ("podcast") in the vein of the flipped classroom model. Of course, you can instruct your students in the manner that best suits your context!

With the content of a podcast titled "Cell: Structure & Function" students have basic knowledge of organelles, students are then able to think about the similarities and differences among and between eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Additionally, they are to do the same for plant and animal differences and similarities. Students will complete these graphic organizers to demonstrate this critical thinking.

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

With the graphic organizers completed today, tomorrow will feature color-coding the organelles of plant, animal, and bacterial cells! Keeping our eye on the prize, here is a snapshot of the end result after day #3.

See Day #2 of 3...