We have had such an amazing time with this cell unit. The goal has been not only to help the kids learn the parts of the cells (organelles), their function, and the difference between animal and plant cells, but also to understand the process of protein synthesis (on a kid level). Most cells have billions of proteins and we learned just how these proteins are made by the cell organelles. We also spent quite a bit of time understanding the difference between prokaryotic cells (with no nucleus, like bacteria) and eukaryotic cells (that have a nucleus such as plant & animal cells, paramecium, etc.)… and we checked out various cells/critters under the microscope!
The Study of Cells Packet is suitable for upper elementary and middle school students. My kids were ages 9 and 11 when we did this unit. My 7 year old joined in too because that’s how it is when you homeschool! It contains all the worksheets and activities that I talk about in the post below.
Once you pay for this packet, you will immediately receive a link to download this file (which will open in a browser window). You will also receive an email from Sendowl (the service I use) to your PayPal email address, which will have a link you can click on to download the Cell unit. (It will say, “You can download your digital products…” with a clickable link.) Of course, if you have any issues just email me at — liesl at homeschoolden dot com. You can also reach me by using the contact form on the blog or can reach me over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.
Cell Unit Activities and Worksheets:
First, we learned the basic parts of the cell:
- Golgi apparatus
- cell membrane
- Endoplasmic reticulum
Here is DD showing us the parts of the cell in the play dough model she made! She talks rather quickly, but you get the idea!
How did DD learn all this? We read through April Terrazas’s book Cellular Biology: Organelles, Structure, Function (This is an affiliate link.) and by the end of the week (going through the book once each day), the kids knew the basic functions COLD!! Lysosomes are the “trash can” of the cell… I *highly* recommend her book!
Note: the book doesn’t include the Endoplasmic reticulum, which we definitely need to know when we went on to learn about how proteins are made. Still, it was such a powerful teaching tool. I don’t know if we could have covered the basic organelles any easier than by using her book! We also started reading Learning About Cells and Cell Function and Specialization. We covered some of the history of cell biology… When microscopes developed, who first discovered cells, protozoa and bacteria, and the development of cell theory. (Cell theory states that all organisms are made of one or more cells, cells are the basic units of structure and function in all organisms and all cells come from other cells that already exist.) We went over the five Living Kingdoms and really spent a lot of time talking about the difference between Monera (one celled organisms without a true nucleus, such as bacteria) and Protista (one celled organisms that have a nucleus). We started talking about the difference between Eukaryotic and Prokaryoic cells. While the organisms without a true nucleus are in the Kingdom, Monera, the type of cell is called a prokaryote. Similarly, an organism that has a nucleus is in the Kingdom, Protista, but the type of cell is called a eukaryote. (Eukaryotic cells also incude plant cells, animal cells, as well as one-celled organisms such as paramecium.) I explained to the kids that it is similar to the fact that they are in the Kingdom animals, but can also be called human beings. Those are just two different ways of grouping/labeling organisms.
Prokaryotes vs. Eukaryotes: The kids really loved our microscope work examining the differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. We have a microscope and pulled out prepared slides of the skin of a pumpkin, a paramecium, and bacteria. (We have this Prepared Slide Set – Intermediate which is available at Amazon — Affiliate Link). The kids drew pictures of what they saw. Then we talked again in great detail about the differences between prokaryotes (bacteria) and eukaryotes (plants, animals, protozoa, etc.) We also ordered a Protozoa Culture Kit. It’s still too soon to tell, but we should be able to see paramecium, euglena, amoeba and other organisms. The kit was under $7.00. We purchased ours from Home Science Tools (not an affiliate link). Once the kids knew the organelles, they made their own. After they were done they gave little “speeches” about what they made and what the organelles do. We made several batches of homemade play dough (the recipe is in the packet). How Proteins are Made: One thing that doesn’t seem to get covered much on the elementary/middle school level is protein synthesis. But, I really wanted the kids to understand how/why the organelles work together as a system. We spent quite a bit of time talking (on a basic level) how proteins are made. I made a number of notebook pages to help the kids understand the process (even drew my own picture of transfer RNA bringing amino acids to be made into protein). Anyway, I explain step-by-step in the Cell Unit pdf, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but after going over this in different ways over the course of the week the kids really understood the process. LD was really fascinated by what can go wrong when proteins are misfolded (or amino acids go missing). He did a lot of research on some of the diseases this can lead to — and we included a sheet that touches on some of these. Since Alzheimer’s runs on Hubby’s side of the family, LD was really distressed researching about that. As you can see in the photo above, while the kids made their cell project above, I made a version to help explain protein synthesis! We went over the difference between plant and animal cells and touched on photosynthesis, but we really didn’t go into much detail (we’ll save that for another time). That’s in part because we got so involved in our hands-on projects on Eurkaryotes and Prokaryotes (more in another post). Here are the notebook pages we went over: As you can see in the pages above, there are some lapbook pieces as well. To use these, you cut them out and fold them. The kids can write information on the inside or outside of those pieces. This packet also touches on Mitosis, though we didn’t go into great detail about that. Instead, since this is the beginning of our Human Body Unit, we ended this part of our unit by covering some of the cells of the body:
- red blood cells
- muscle cells
- nerve cells
- liver cells
- cardiac cells
- skin cells
Update: In the spring semester 2017 we reviewed the organelles of the cell again. I made some new review pages that cover the organelles and their functions. I’ve added these into the packet as well (so it’s now 40+ pages)
Our packet is about
35 pages (now 40+ pages) and includes all the pages above. It also includes some of our activities. Once you pay for this packet, you will immediately receive a link to download this file (which will open in a browser window). You will also receive an email to your PayPal email address from Sendowl (the service I use), which will have a link you can click on to download the Cell unit. (It will say, “You can download your digital products…” with a clickable link.) Of course, if you have any issues just email me at — liesl at homeschoolden dot com. You can also reach me by using the contact form on the blog or can reach me over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.
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Disclosure: Please note that some of the links to books above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
This video, Introduction to Cells, was made by a science teacher I know, Frank Gregorio:
And this video is really helpful if you plan to introduce your kids/students to the production of proteins in the ribosomes:
- After this unit we did on cells above, we spent a few days learning about photosynthesis. At the moment, you can find those photosynthesis worksheets here:
You might also be interested in some of our other packets:
- Earth Science Packet – 75+ Pages on the layers of the Earth, latitude-longitude, plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, and more!