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Hands-on Activity: Cell Membrane Color Sheet and Build a Cell Membrane
Contributed by: VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University

Cartoon drawing shows a microscope and cell.
Working with cells.

Summary

Students color-code a schematic of a cell and its cell membrane structures. Then they complete the "Build-a-Membrane" activity found at http://learn.genetics.utah.edu. This reinforces their understanding of the structure and function of animal cells, and shows them the importance of being able to construct a tangible model of something that is otherwise difficult to see.

Engineering Connection

Relating science and/or math concept(s) to engineering

To understand intracellular engineering, students must have a basic understanding of the cell and cell mechanics. Through this activity, students take a hands-on approach by identifying and shading cell components on a cell diagram, as well as building a cell membrane model. Through this exercise, they relate building and design with science structure. Buiding models is a common approach used in the engineering design process, especially to study or manipulate objects that are at scales too difficult to see. Engineers often build models of cells to better study and understand how their structure and functions are related.

Contents

  1. Pre-Req Knowledge
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Materials
  4. Introduction/Motivation
  5. Vocabulary
  6. Procedure
  7. Investigating Questions
  8. Assessment
  9. Multimedia
  10. References

Grade Level: 10 (9-11) Group Size: Not defined
Time Required: 15 minutes
Expendable Cost Per Group
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Educational Standards :    

  •   International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
  •   National Science Education Standards: Science
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Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)

Students should have completed the associated Cell Membrane Structure and Function lesson and have a basic understanding of cell structures and their functions.

Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)

After this activity, students should be able to:
  • Define the relationship between the structure and function of a cell membrane.
  • Describe the different types of membrane proteins.
  • Build a model cell membrane.

Materials List (Return to Contents)

Each group needs:
To share with the entire class:

Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)

Ever wonder why things are arranged as they are? Is there a reason for it or are arrangements, such as cell organelles, just random?
In this activity, you will construct a cell membrane. You will also color-code a schematic of a cell and its organelles. Doing this will help you to understand where things are in a cell and why they are in specific positions.
Cells are the basis unit of life. Chemical and biomedical engineers study cells and their composition as part of designing innovative technologies to advance the medical health industry. However, cells are difficult for us to see, so engineers often build models of cells to better study and understand how their structure and functions are related.

Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)

cell membrane: A semi-permeable membrane that encapsulates a cell's cytoplasm.
membrane protein: A protein molecule attached to the membrane of a cell or organelle.
organelle: A structure in a cell that performs a specified task or function. Found in eukaryotic cells.

Background:

Nanoparticle research has become a focus in the field of biomedical engineering due to its use for drug delivery and other applications. To understand what is happening inside of the cell, students must understand how the particles enter the cell as well as its structure. A model of the cell helps students see how cell membrane structure and function, and also provides the level of detail needed by engineers to facilitate ease of entrance in their designs. First, students use colored pencils to shade in a cell diagram. As they write down the functional part of each organelle, they begin to understand placement and arrangement. Taking this a step further, students construct their own models of cell membranes. These "membrane-pieces" assemble with those from other groups in the class to form a large cell membrane model.

Before the Activity

With the Students

  1. Distribute the materials and worksheets for the cell coloring page.
  2. Make sure all students read the instructions carefully. This is a wonderful student-directed activity, so let them investigate and only provide instructions and guidance as they ask questions.
  3. Once students have completed the coloring portion, divide the class into small groups and direct them to the Build-a-Membrane exercise, following the instructions found at http://teach.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/cells/print/BuildAMembrane.pdf.
  4. Conclude by assembling together the "membrane-pieces" with those from other groups in the class to form a large cell membrane model. Ask students the Investigating Questions.

Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)

  • What are some of the structures within a cell?
  • What are their functions?
  • What is nanoscience, and how does it relate to studying cells?
  • Why is it important for engineers to build models of cells?
Cell Membrane Models: At activity end, grade students on their final cell membrane product.

Additional Multimedia Support (Return to Contents)

Source of Animal Cell Coloring Sheet: http://www.biologycorner.com/worksheets/cellcolor.html
Source of Build-a-Membrane activity: http://teach.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/cells/

Dictionary.com. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Accessed June 21, 2010. http://www.dictionary.com

Contributors

Melinda M. Higgins, Amber Spolarich

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2010 Vanderbilt University

Supporting Program (Return to Contents)

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University

Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)

The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under National Science Foundation RET grant nos. 0338092 and 0742871. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
Last Modified: July 24, 2014
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