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7.2: Projects

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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The following Projects are an assortment of long-term activities that can be completed individually, in groups, or as a class. We have provided starting points for research and development; you and the students can work together to create a more detailed plan of action. Consider the following two recommendations. First, because of the amount of work involved in a project, students should choose one of great interest to them. Second, to encourage excellence and promote student-student learning, students should present their finished projects to the rest of the class, to the school and to the community, if appropriate.

Project 1: Research Questions and Action Projects

Project 1 differs from the others: it is a list of possible research topics organized according to some key ideas and addressed to students.

In assigning a Research Question or Action Project, we ask that you allow students to choose their topic-either one provided or one of their own. You might also:

  1. Specify length of piece.
  2. Make clear the purpose and the audience.
  3. Suggest sources and ideas for information.
  4. Provide in-class time for compiling information and writing.
  5. Require students to exchange papers and provide written feedback.
  6. Provide a breakdown of due-dates for the following stages: choice of topic, outline, rough draft, and final draft.
  7. Permit students to supplement a written report with a skit, a piece of artwork, a piece of music, a dance, a video, or a multimedia presentation.


Provide students with evaluation criteria that include

  • accuracy of the content based on guiding questions.
  • clarity of writing.
  • effective organization of main ideas.
  • use of detailed examples or citing evidence to support their conclusions.

Projects 1: Teacher Activity Notes - Research Questions

The following Research Questions require independent research. They are organized according to some key ideas and phrased in the form of a series of questions.

Cells Are the Basic Unit of Life A major concept in biology is the cell theory. What is the cell theory? Which scientists contributed to its development? How does the theory influence how we study biology today, frame research questions, plan methods, and analyze results?

Who were some early cell biologists? What methods did they use to study cells? How do these methods compare to those we use today? Before the work of these early scientists, what did people believe living things were made of?

The study of plant cells was an important precursor to the study of animal cells. What structural similarities allowed scientists to make comparisons between plant and animal cells? What microscope studies might you perform to observe the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells?

Environmental Factors Can Cause Mutations in DNA UV, or ultraviolet, light causes mutations, or changes in the DNA sequence, which in turn may cause cells to function and grow abnormally. What does exposure to the sun's UV rays do to your skin cells? Why do some people get sunburned and others get tanned? Can a person who tans and never burns still get skin cancer? What factors, if any, increase a person's risk of getting skin cancer? How does wearing sunscreen protect you when you are in the sun?

Proteins Make Individual Cells and Whole Organisms Unique If all the cells in a living organism have the same DNA, why do they look different from each other? For example, what makes a bone cell different from a liver cell? What types of proteins might a bone cell make that make it different from a liver cell? In what ways do cells adapt their structures to perform their specialized tasks?

Cells Recognize Other Cells by the Surface Proteins on the Cell Membrane What is an autoimmune disease? Why do many medical scientists believe multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease? What does multiple sclerosis do to the body? What type of research is underway to treat multiple sclerosis?

Staying Healthy Insulin is a protein produced by cells in your pancreas. It plays a critically important role in cell metabolism throughout your body. What does insulin do? What happens when your body cannot produce insulin? How has science been able to help people who cannot produce their own insulin?

Warts are caused by a virus that causes skin cells to behave abnormally. What does the virus do to alter cell functions? What can you do to counteract the virus' effects?

Exercise can change the appearance and size of muscles. How does regular exercise affect muscle cell metabolism? How do anabolic steroids affect muscle metabolism and consequently muscle size and appearance? What are the side effects of using anabolic steroids on other cells in the body?

What are the five most common types of cancer? Are any of them preventable? Choose one type of cancer and find out what scientists are currently doing to prevent and treat it.

The human body is about 50-65% water. Why do your cells need water? How does dehydration impair cell function? How much water can the body lose before it becomes dehydrated?

Project 2: Teacher Activity Notes - Cell Models


Students design and build three-dimensional (3-D) models of a particular kind of cell. They provide an explanation of all the structures and their functions in the cell. Studying cells is often easier when illustrations and models are employed to represent cell structures and functions. Students can create their 3-D model from materials of their choice or on the computer using design software.

Interdisciplinary Connection

Visual and Performing Arts


Two weeks to gather supplies or work on the computer

One week to build models in class or at home.

1-2 days to present models

Student Materials

Reference books, the Internet, medical and science illustrations, art supplies (such as clay, film, cardboard, markers, and/or paints)

Teacher Materials

None required

Advance Preparation

Give students time to bring supplies from home to build their model.


Model of a particular kind of cell.

Written explanation of the structure and functions of cell organelles.

Presentation of model to class.


  1. As a class, brainstorm the possible cell types students could model. Discuss interesting materials from which they could build their models. Discuss how a 3-D model could be created and displayed on a computer. For example, a nerve cell, a muscle cell, a heart muscle cell, a red blood cell, a white blood cell.
  2. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. Allow each group to choose a cell to model. Remind students that artistic talent is not of primary importance, rather they should concentrate on creating a clear and informative piece.
  3. Provide students reference books with illustrations to research the specific structures that belong in their model. They also need to perform research on the functions of each structure and explain it in their own words.
  4. Have students design a code key or legend for their model so that all parts are labeled and explained.
  5. Have students present their models to the class.


Use the 3-D model of the cell and student presentation to assess if students can

  • build an accurate model of a cell.
  • describe the structure and function of each organelle and parts of a particular cell type.

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