How my classroom turned into a giant cell



After the biochemistry unit, it’s pretty traditional to teach about cells next.  During my first year, I struggled teaching this unit, because it feels so full of details with seemingly very little connection to each other.  There is nothing worse than standing in front of a class and listing the organelle names and their functions and their structures and watching every pair of eyes glaze over before I even get to Endoplasmic Reticulum.  This is just not my style.  When my second year came, I decided to do something totally different.  Instead of me teaching them about the organelles, I decided to have THEM teach each other.  I typed up a project description, a rubric, and I told them to bring in materials.  Some students brought in construction paper, but a bunch of students had the the best idea to bring in recyclable materials like old water bottles and cardboard boxes!  I gave them three full class periods in class to work on it with their group of no more than 3 students.  And they did it!  What they came up with was terrific!  They then did an oral presentation for the class and taught their classmates about their organelle.  In their projects, they were required to talk about the organelle’s structure, function, and how it functioned alongside or with at least 2 other organelles.


At the end of their presentations, the students had a better appreciation of how organelles worked TOGETHER in the cell and I had some fantastic organelles to hang all over the classroom!  I left them up all year and my students loved seeing their work and referring to their work throughout the year when their organelle got mentioned.  Here are some pictures of a few of the organelles they created!




You could do this too in your classroom!  I recommend typing up a rubric with a list of things you want all of the students to have in their organelle and in their oral presentations (you can also check out mine here if you want to save yourself the time).    I really think this project helped my students bond together as a class too, early on in the year.  I did this project every year when I had a classroom that allows me to do it!


One year, they loved this project so much, that a couple of them even made me some organelle christmas ornaments a few months later.  I still treasure them and I hang them on my tree at home. 🙂


What kind of projects do your students love?  Let me know in the comments!


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