Using a Simulation Activity to Explore and Compare Meiosis and Mitosis

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SWBAT go through the process of meiosis and compare/contrast this process with mitosis in cells.

Big Idea

Use colored beads to simulate meiosis and compare it to the process of mitosis!

Notes for the Teacher

This lab is a great way to make the many phases of meiosis make sense!  Having kids work through each phase using the colored beads slows down their conversation and thinking and brings up great questions that help propel them forward to deeper understanding of how mitosis and meiosis compare to each other.  It also connects back to our work on the differences between cell division in cancer cells vs. normal cells.  I typically keep the beads out in the classroom so that students can use them as we talk throughout the unit.  I use these beads from the AP Biology class lab kit from Wards, but you can use any repeating unit bead/toy that you have on hand.  

The Classroom Flow: Introducing Today's Activity

10 minutes

1.  Remind students of the work you did in your last session together comparing and contrasting the events in mitosis and meiosis.  Use the meiosis slide presentation for additional support if students need a visual reminder of concepts from the last session (which can happen sometimes, especially on Mondays!).

2.  Tell students that today they will be working with their lab partner using bead models to explore the process of meiosis in more detail.  Pass out the modeling meiosis bead lab document.

3.  Let students briefly read over the directions for this document and then highlight the procedure and goals:

  • Follow the activity directions step by step for greater understanding about the process of meiosis.  The directions are very specific and support your learning.
  • For each question, draw accurate representations of your model work.
  • Whenever you get stuck, go back to the bead models and start at the step before you and your partner felt confused. Don't just discuss the questions or look at the beads--use them! Manipulate them and prove to yourself that your thinking is correct. 
  • Whenever possible, work in scientific terminology into your written responses.

3.  Ask students to go to their lab tables where they will find their beads and colored pencils in order to begin their pair activity.

The Classroom Flow: Working with the Lab Simulation Beads

30 minutes

1.  Once student pairs arrive at their lab tables, give them five minutes to settle in, look at their materials, consult their activity document, and check in as a team.  At this point, all groups should be working with the beads.  

  • Note: If you see a group that does not seem to be engaging with the models observe and if needed, go over to encourage and support.  The key to this lesson is having student get out of their heads and pick up the models to manipulate, look at, discuss, and question with them.  

2.  Circulate as student groups are working.  Listen in to see how students are working with their partners and within their table groups to help each other.  Refer them to their textbook and the meiosis slide presentation for additional support before directly intervening whenever possible.

  • Note:  This is almost always possible!  This lesson is really our first real exposure to model use for learning and students will need gentle and consistent encouragement to keep going back to models to answer their questions.  This lesson sets up some great model work skills that we will build upon during the DNA model lesson series later in the year.  

3.  Below you will find photos of each of the phases of meiosis that students will be simulating with the beads.  I am including them here for you to give you a sense of how the flow of events in meiosis translates into our bead models.  Also, you can use these photos later on as a way to help students recall what they know about each phase, specifically as a prompt for vocabulary or even as a writing activity.

Interphase I (G1) beads

Interphase I (Sunthesis) beads

Prophase I beads

Crossing Over in Prophase I beads

Metaphase I beads

Anaphase I beads

Metaphase II beads

Anaphase II beads

Telophase II beads

4.  About halfway through the session, you will notice that students are working with the models with more confidence and ease.  Encourage pairs you saw struggling earlier to revisit their initial responses now that they are more comfortable with both the activity and the process of meiosis.

5. As the activity winds down, ask students to return their materials to their designated spot in the room and return to their desks for our final wrap up.  

  • Note: Some students may ask for more time with the beads.  I keep them in the classroom throughout the unit and announce when the room will be open for students to use them.  In some cases, I will send beads home in a baggie for individual students to work with on their own time, or for students who have been absent to use as a make-up activity/review.

The Classroom Flow: Reviewing Concepts

10 minutes

1.  Using the spokesperson protocol, ask students to share out their answers to the following two prompts:

What was the biggest challenge of this lab?

How did you overcome it?

2.  Field student questions about their challenges.  

  • Note: Students will generally share out that they were really confused about what to do at first, but that over time they figured it out.  When I follow up by asking how they figured it out, they will say that they asked their partner or other pairs for help, went back and reread the directions and repeated steps, and generally were patient and didn't get frustrated or quit and that it worked out.  These are exactly the type of responses I am looking for!  They show a committment to working through complicated problems, collaboration, and reiterations, all of which are at the foundation of science education and research.

3.  Ask students for any questions about meiosis that came up during the lab session.  

  • Note: The questions I get here tend to be very detail oriented, such as:  Does the cell go through interphase a second time?  For how long?  Why?  

4.  Remind students that the meiosis ppt presentation is there for them for additional support as needed. 

3.  Check out two student work samples below.  I chose these two examples as representative of most work I received and two things stand out to me:  

  • In both samples, the diagrams on pp. 1 and 2 are drawn and colored in a way that make it easy to trace the sequence of events in meiosis.
  • In both samples, the comparison chart on p. 2 shows that our previous work outlining the ways in which mitosis and meiosis are similar/different was successful
  • In both samples, the student written responses on p. 1 are minimal and lacking the use of appropriate scientific terminology.  I will need to go back and think about how to expand upon their writing and check in on both 1) writing expectations as well as 2) content knowledge needed in order to effectively use those scientific terms in their writing.  I might also consider editing the document to include more space for writing--perhaps the smaller space subconsciously cued students to include less written content.

Meiosis Bead Lab Student Work Sample 1 p. 1

Meiosis Bead Lab Student Work Sample 1 p. 2

Meiosis Bead Lab Student Work Sample 2 p. 1

Meiosis Bead Lab Student Work Sample 2 p. 2