A Cell Is Like A City

Teacher: Vanessa A. Bishop

Subject: Biology

Grade Level(s): 7 9 10 11 12

Target Audience: Biology I, II, AP Biology and Life Science

Materials Needed: various

Class Time: 1 week

Brief Summary: This activity, which can be modified to meet the needs of the class, reinforces the understanding of structure and function of the cell (eukaryotic).

Student Objective(s): To create analogies that help students remember the cell parts as well as their respective functions. To experience a hands-on approach to science. To apply cell biology to an organismal level.

Description of Activities: Day 1: Students compare a list of structures of the plant or animal cell to parts and buildings of a city, according to their function. (Ex: Golgi body as the post office - packaging, processing, shipping; mitochondria is the power house - synthesis of energy, etc.) Honors students should list more detailed structures like protein channels, which can be represented by bridges in the cell membrane - fence. Day 2: Next, students plan their city and the materials they will use. They build a city, not a cell, using only biodegradable materials. Anatomy and physiology classes can make specialized cities such as Nerve City or Muscle City. Since "structure fits function" is one of the themes biological sciences address, students are assigned to write essays about how structure is related to function at three different levels: intracellular, cellular and organ levels of organization. Students should include city buildings references as necessary.

Integration (tying it all together): Math applications are possible. Surface area to volume ratio is important for the efficiency of cell uptake of nutrients as well as DNA control of the cell activities. Explaining in mathematical terms how size relates to cell division can be an additional question. Exponential growth also applies here.

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