What do a bike factory, a ford truck, a farm, a classroom, the IPS staff, Winterfell Castle, an alien spaceship, a bee hive, a veggie garden, a hockey rink and a vitamix smoothie maker have in common?
You guessed it – they are all easy to compare to a Eukaryotic cell. Each year, the creative cell project is a favourite among my grade 8 science students. The assignment asks students to choose an object and compare its different parts to the inner workings of the cell. As soon as I introduce the idea, the students eagerly get to work researching the parts of the cell, drawing out their ideas and discussing the possible relationships between their chosen objects.
But is it all about fun for the students? Of course that is important to me as a teacher, but the benefits of creativity are many. Being creative gives us opportunities to try out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Creative activities help us acknowledge and celebrate our own uniqueness and diversity. Creativity encourages self-expression, a way to create something from personal feelings and experiences. By learning about the cell in their own unique way, students will not only gain a deeper understanding of the subject they are trying to learn, but also reap the benefits of the creative process.
What do I gain from the project? While this kind of project takes longer to implement because the students need more time to get to a finished project, I enjoy watching their enthusiasm and energy each day, and I get pure entertainment while I am marking their work.
Here are some examples of how students have compared the parts of a cell to their chosen object.
Ribosomes are proteins that are used for different things in the cell. In our farm, the ribosomes are the cows because cows produce dairy and meat which are both proteins.
Cell Membrane In our analogy, the lid of the vitamix smoothie maker is like the cell membrane because it lets materials in and out of the blender and contains everything inside; the cell membrane does the same thing because it holds in the cytoplasm and organelles.
Cytoplasm is the gel-like material that fills the empty space in the cell, surrounding all the organelles. Barb & Maureen are the cytoplasm because they hold everyone together, organize them, and keep them from going crazy. Without them, everyone would be in chaos. Just like the cytoplasm, they keep everything in its place.
Vesicles are the messengers that carry things around the cell. These small sacs help transport materials in and out of the cell. In a truck air conditioning moves the heat and air in and out of the truck. Jen Z, Diana and Amanda are the vesicles because they travel around the classrooms and carry information, messages or just float around. They also give support to everything!
Nucleus The nucleus is the center of the cell, and it controls everything that happens in the cell. It is also in charge of reproduction. Scott is the nucleus because he controls all the staff. He makes all the final decisions, and he also has the most kids. (Reproduction)
Mitochondria is the engine room on the alien spaceship. It generates energy so that the ship may glide through the far reaches of space, just like the mitochondria produces energy so that the cell may function.
At the completion of the project, the students have a great time sharing their work with their classmates by giving a presentation. While the students are always interested in each other’s presentations, the most popular are always the ones with food such as the cell is like a vitamix smoothie maker and the cell is like a cake.
As a teaching tool, creative projects have shown to be an effective way of helping students to gain knowledge and other important skills while fostering a sense of fun in my classroom. I continue to look for opportunities to use creativity to learn at IPS!
Science Teacher Years 1-4, Outdoor Expeditions Coordinator