A “heads-up” for teachers who like to plan ahead

by Ellen H. Showell and Fred M. B. Amram

Women Invent in America

Related issues packaged with a teacher’s guide


Teacher’s Guide

Teaching Suggestions for
Language of Cells

      Article, Page

"What’s Cooking?" pg. 6
The inside of a cell is like a busy kitchen. From the command center (nucleus), DNA ("the head chef") gives the orders, while other cell parts carry them out. Ribosomes, mitochondria, RNA, and the cell membrane are all active parts of a cell. While the basic parts are the same, cells specialize in what they do. Secreting cells make hormones, bone cells store calcium, and nerve cells generate impulses. A sidebar (pg. 7) distinguishes eukaryotes and prokaryotes.
Vocabulary, Process Analysis

"Dying to Survive," pg. 10
Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is an orderly and safe process occurring every day in our bodies. It’s the way that old or weak cells are destroyed and their materials recycled. Understanding the process of apoptosis may help scientists find ways to combat cancer.
Process Analysis, Cause and Effect

"Meet the Experts," pg. 12
In this companion piece to "Dying to Survive," four scientists explain how their research into apoptosis (cellular suicide) might lead to a treatment or prevention for cancer.
Vocabulary, Applications

"Anila Madiraju" (People to Discover), pg. 13
ODYSSEY talks with Anila Madiraju, an 18-year-old Canadian student whose interest in cancer research led her to win top honors in the 54th Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Ms. Madiraju explains her project and her plans for the future.
Vocabulary, Applications

"Stem Cells: Forever Young," pg. 16
The origins of stem cells (embryonic and adult), stem cell therapies for diseases such as leukemia and Parkinson’s, and the ethics of stem cell research are among the topics examined in this article. ODYSSEY invites readers to express their views on controversial ethical issues.
Applications, Decision-Making

"Have a Heart," pg. 21
Research groups are studying the process of growing new, healthy heart tissue (specifically, cardiac myocytes) from stem cells.
Applications, Deductive Reasoning

"Mysterious Cells Found in the Brain of a Genius," pg. 22
An examination of Albert Einstein’s brain led some scientists to look more closely at glial cells, which protect, feed, and "clean up after" neurons. The discovery that glia control the flow of information in the brain might help us to understand the mind of a genius.
Structure/Function, Deductive Reasoning

"Breaking the Brain Code" (Activity to Discover), pg. 27
Sensory nerve cells communicate with the brain in a language of electrical impulses. Try the suggested activity to find out how the pulse code alerts your brain to changes in the environment and how adaptation can fool the brain.
Inductive Reasoning, Following Directions

"How to Measure Your Brain . . . With Toothpicks!" (Activity to Discover), pg. 30
With a friend, a ruler, and some toothpicks, you can find the size of your brain and map your somatosensory cortex. It’s all about nerve receptors and how your body "talks" to your brain. For more fun, draw a homunculus to show each body part corresponding to its brain measurement.
Data Collection and Interpretation, Following Directions

"Eavesdropping on Bacteria," pg. 33
Bacteria communicate with chemical signals. Diseases that manifest chronic bacterial infections, such as cystic fibrosis, may be better treated if we can understand their "lingo." Several sidebars discuss various aspects of cellular communication. A companion activity offers directions for growing biofilms.
Vocabulary, Following Directions

"Cell Talk" (Brain Strain), pg. 39
Does the bubbling of cells indicate a color code? Apply your mathematical reasoning to uncover the cellular rules.
Following Directions, Pattern Recognition

"Measuring a Lunar Eclipse" (WHAT’S UP including PLANET WATCH), pg. 40
This month offers the Hunter’s Moon and a total lunar eclipse. Evening planets are Mercury and Saturn, while morning viewers can see Venus, Jupiter, and Mars. A companion lunar eclipse activity shows how to time a crater’s movement and measure the brightness of the eclipse.
Observation, Following Directions

Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):

  1. What do you know about how cells work? What parts of a cell can you name, and what functions do those parts serve? Compile a list of questions about cells that you would like to answer as you read this issue of ODYSSEY.
  2. How and why does medical research become controversial? What ethical questions are raised? How do you think scientists should react to such questions and controversies?

Classroom "Syzygy":     Talk, Connect, Assess

Pg. 6 – "What’s Cooking?"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. What is the function of the nucleus of a cell? The ribosomes? The mitochondria? The cell membrane? In your own words, explain these parts and what they do.
    2. The article compares DNA to the "master chef" in charge of everything that goes on in the cell. Explain how DNA performs its "command and control" functions.
  • Connections:
    1. Visual Arts: Draw a cartoon that shows the functions of cell parts as activities in a kitchen. Enlarge your cartoon onto a poster and add appropriate labels and captions.
    2. Language Arts: This article uses similes and metaphors to explain the structure and function of cells. In the dictionary, find the definition of each. Then make lists of the similes and metaphors you find in this article. As you read other articles in the issue, look for other similes and metaphors and try to create a few of your own.
    3. History: Search flea markets and antique shops for the oldest biology textbook you can find. See how that text describes the cell. Compare the text with an up-to-date book to see what has changed. Then research to find out when those changes were added to our scientific experience. Organize your findings into a time line of discoveries.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. Pick one part of the cell. Tell what it is, where it is, and how it works.
    2. Draw a picture of a "typical" cell. Label the parts and write a sentence about the job each part performs.
Pg. 16 – "Stem Cells: Forever Young"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. How are stem cells different than other cells? Why are stem cells so interesting to medical researchers?
    2. Why is stem cell research controversial? What do you know about the controversies and what would you like to know? What must happen for the controversies to be resolved?
  • Connections:
    1. Web Research: Scan newspapers, news magazines, and news sites on the Internet. Look for articles about stem cells. Photocopy or print the articles and read them carefully. Make two lists from them: (1) Areas/Applications of Stem Cell Research; (2) Stem Cell Controversies.
    2. Creative Writing: One way to communicate opinions about a controversy is through poetry or song. Consider the controversy surrounding stem cell research. Write a song or poem to express your opinion. (Hint: Try to select a specific "piece" of the controversy rather than take on all aspects.)
    3. Visual Arts: Create a poster that shows how stem cells might be used to combat a disease — either one mentioned in the article or one you choose after doing some library and Internet research.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. Using a visual aid, describe the difference between an embryonic stem cell and an adult stem cell. Explain how stem cells might be used to combat a serious disease.
    2. Reread the sidebar "The Ethics of Stem Cell Research" on pg. 20. Respond in a clearly worded persuasive essay to one of the three questions. Send your response to ODYSSEY.

Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine (with a few selections from the Personals ads column of Cellular News)

"I’ve been single-stranded too long! Lonely ATGCATG seeks to pair with congenial TACGTAC."
Small-Group Experiment: Can your brain adjust? Work with a partner to conduct an experiment on brain adaptation. One person will spend the week (as much as possible) using his or her "other" hand (e.g., the left hand if the person is right-handed). The partner develops tests to determine whether the brain can adjust to the new "handedness."

"Mature cell seeks same who won’t go apoptotic. Let’s fight senescence together!"
Community Connection: Contact a neurologist from an area hospital to talk about brain injury and adaptation. What happens at a cellular level when the brain is traumatized? What new treatments for brain damage and disease are possible in the future?

"Highly sensitive, small molecule seeks stable, well-structured receptor who knows size isn’t everything."
Whole-Class Project: Set up your classroom as a make-believe cell. Invite a third-grade class to visit for a presentation of the parts of a cell and how a cell works. Use analogies to help explain the cell to your young audience. Present a play (with costumes?) and distribute a "playbill" handout with a follow-up game or activity.

""Uninhibited virus seeks reason to shed its coat protein. No prokaryotes, please."
Team Collaborative Project: Break the class into teams of four students each. Challenge each group to research and present information on a disease or disability that might someday be treated or cured as a result of current cell research. Put two team members in charge of gathering information. Assign another the task of organizing the research into a presentation with an accompanying visual aide. Challenge the fourth team member to lead class discussion and answer any questions that may arise.

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Last modified: November 1, 2004