The Organization of Living Things: Structure/Function Relationships

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Students will be able to demonstrate the relationship between structure and function in cells, tissues, and organs.

Big Idea

Students research to find the structure/function relationship in red blood cells, nerve cells, xylem tissue, and the small intestine.

Introduction and Connection to the NGSS and Common Core

In this lesson students research to identify the structure/function relationships that occur in cells, tissues, and organs.  Students learn about how cells are grouped in living organisms and are introduced to how to determine if a website is a credible resource. 

This lesson is specifically designed to address the following NGSS and Common Core Standards:

MS-LS1-3  Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B  Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8  Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.

Science and Engineering Practices:

The NGSS asks that students develop their ability gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.

In this lesson, students use online research to determine the structure/function relationships in living organisms.  During the lesson, they learn some strategies to help them determine if the research they find is credible.

Crosscutting Concepts:

Throughout science concepts, including the study of living organisms, it is important that students recognize that the way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions.  In this lesson, students investigate this relationship in cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems.

Connecting to the Essential Question: What are you supposed to learn today?

5 minutes

Begin class by asking, "What are you going to learn today?".  Students should respond by referring to the Essential Question, "How do cells contribute to the function of living organisms?".  This EQ can be referenced both on my front board as well as on their Cells Unit Plan.

Have students get out their Cells Unit Plan.  Explain that their focus of this particular lesson are Skill 3 (I can create a model that shows the relationship between cell structure and function) and Skill 5 (I can develop models to demonstrate that organisms are made up of tissues, organs and organ systems that have specific jobs).  As the students have had other lessons focusing on these learning targets, have students reread the skill and self-assess where they stand in their level of mastery in this skill.  Students rank themselves on a scale of 1 to 4 (4 being mastery).  

As the unit moves forward, I have the students continually self-assess on each skill.  In my class, this will be the students second self-assessment, so they change their scores if they feel that their learning has improved.  Check out the student's unit plan below to see how students update their mastery level with each lesson.

Mini Lesson: Don't fall into the "TRAP" of online researching!

25 minutes

Each student will need access to technology and Internet access.  To begin, I ask the students use go to the website Help Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.

I explain that as engineers we are always trying to determine how our inventions, innovations, and choices affect the environment.  I state that I just came across this website about an endangered species.  I explain that I thought I would share this article before getting into the day's lesson. Then, I provide students time to read about the endangered tree octopus in the article (which, of course, doesn't actually exist).

After reading the website, students get excited about the thought of a tree octopus as they have never heard of it before.  I explain that the reason that they have never heard about it before is that it actually doesn't exist!  I further explain that in the lesson today, they will research a topic and be able to determine if the sites they are using provide credible information.  

I say, "When researching using websites, we don't want to fall into the "TRAP"!!!".  "TRAP" is an acronym for determining if a website is credible.  I explain the acronym to them.  As I go through each letter, I ask them to look at the tree octopus website to find a clue that would have caused us to determine that the website should not have been trusted.

Timeliness:  Is the information up-to-date for the subject?

CLUE: Look for copyright dates or publication dates.

Reliability: Is it trustworthy?  Does it present a personal opinion or is information presented with identified sources?

CLUE:  Check for errors in spelling or facts.  Look for supporting citations or a bibliography.

Authority:  Who is the author?

CLUE:  Look for the “about” link to locate information on the author or company credentials.

Purpose:  Why was the website created?  

CLUE:  Check the domain name.  Remember that .EDU & .GOV are most credible, followed by .ORG and .COM.  

Here a quick video demonstrating the "TRAP" of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website.

I emphasize to the students that as they use the Internet for the lesson today, they should be aware of the "TRAP" and look for clues that would let them see if the site is credible. 

Internet Search: Structure/Function Relationships

45 minutes

In a previous lesson, students have been introduced to the way that cells group and the way that cells are specialized for particular functions in cells.  Before beginning this activity, I review a few of these topics:

  1. Why do organisms require specialized cells? (Cells need to perform specific functions to support life.)
  2. We have learned that one characteristic of living things is that they are organized.  How are cells grouped/organized in an organism like a gecko or a maple tree?  (Specialized cells group to form tissues, tissues group to form organs, organs group to form organ systems, organ systems group together to form the organism.)
  3. What would you notice about the tissues that were grouped together to form an organ?  (They work together to perform a function to support life.)
  4. Throughout the year, we have been talking about the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts.  Our focus today will be "Structure and Function".  What does this concept mean? (That the size, shape, composition often relates to the job something has to do.)

I explain that our cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems have important structure/function relationships.  Today, I let students know that they will be using Internet searches to investigate some of these relationships.

I provide the students with the "Structure and Function Internet Search" activity page.  I remind students not to fall into the "TRAP" and to carefully evaluate the websites they use.  In addition, I encourage them to problem solve and try to determine the structure/function relationship for each cell/tissue/organ on their own before searching for the answer.  I let students know that in the past, I have had students that want to rely so much on "looking up" the answer, that they can miss opportunities to make their own meaning.  I encourage students to have confidence that they can determine the relationship if they look at the picture they draw and the function they research.

On the student document, the students draw a picture of the cell/tissue/organ, identify the function, name the tissue/organ/organ system it is a part of, and connect the size/shape/composition to the function.  Student examples of are included in the resource bin.


15 minutes

To close, I have each table think of a type of cell, tissue or organ in a plant or animal that was not researched in the lesson and complete a quick search to see if they could find a structure/function relationship for.  

After going through the four examples in this lesson, I find students can do this relatively quickly if they do not have to write it down.  Then, I have each table share the structure/function relationship that they found.