Ideas for a Human Cell Project

Written by hannah wahlig
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Ideas for a Human Cell Project
Human cell projects examine the structures and functions of various types of body cells. (cells 12 image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com)

Human anatomy and biology is an essential component to a comprehensive science education in state schools. Human cell biology is the study of the building blocks of human life. Projects are an interactive and hands-on way to engage students in building knowledge of human cell biology. Engage students' critical thinking and creativity skills through a variety of human cell projects.

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Edible Cells

Any activity which gives students a chance to eat the end result will engage young and old students alike. Challenge students to create edible models of various types of human cells or cell parts. The project can be done individually, or you can place students into small groups and assign cell types to each group. For example, one group of students is responsible for creating edible nerve cell models while another group is responsible for creating an edible white blood cell. Each group should prepare a presentation of their cell and label cell parts with toothpick flags. One common approach for preparing an edible cell model is to make a clear gelatin mould with other food objects to represent cell parts; raisins represent mitochondria, small rainbow sprinkles serve as ribosomes and the nucleus is a small apricot. Crispy rice treats, various types of cereal and candies are also versatile model materials.

Cell Types

The human body is comprised of several types of cells; white blood cells, red blood cells, nerve cells, skin cells and germ cells are just some of the cell types included on the more than one trillion cells that make up the human body. Design an activity in which students study and identify various types of cells using slides and microscopes. Prepare or purchase several slides that depict different cell types. Provide groups of students a sampling of cells and a microscope. Each group is responsible for creating an illustrated booklet that describes the design, parts and function of each type of cell. Books should be colourfully illustrated and accurate.

As an extension to the activity, groups should create cell slides using their own cells. Provide groups with tooth picks and clean glass slides. Each group member gently scrapes the inside of her cheek and then smears the cells onto the clean slide. Place a drop of water onto the slide and then place another clean slide on top. Students can also add a drop of stain colouring if they want to colour their cheek cells. Students then observe their cheek cells and include the illustration in their booklet.

Classroom Cell

Make cells larger than life by transforming your entire classroom into a model of a human cell. Hold a classroom vote on their favourite type of body cell; for classrooms that host more than one class per day, assign each class a different cell and a different corner of the classroom. After the class has decided, assign student groups to a specific cell part. For example, one group is the cell membrane while another group is in charge of the cell nucleus. The groups are in charge of creating a scale design of their cell part that will be suspended from the classroom ceiling or hung on the classroom wall. Students must take accurate measurements and select appropriate materials. Once all groups have created their part of the cell, they present the design to the class before attaching it to the larger than life model.

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