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Five Resources for Engaging in the Microscopic World of Cells

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Teaching about cells can be a bit abstract. Often, classroom microscopes are not capable of illuminating tiny cells and structures and textbook images never quite do the amazing cell justice. Current media resources however, can be just the thing to engage students in this microscopic world!

In the Cellular Structure and Function activity from PBS LearningMedia, multiple media resources (Grades: 6-12) can be woven together for a virtual tour of the cell.

1. Gallery of Cells Images

Students start by viewing images of a variety of specialized cells.  At all levels of organization in the living world, form and function go hand in hand. Take the cell, for example. A cell’s DNA determines the size and shape of the cell as well as its role in the host organism or environment. These images illustrate the variety of forms cells can take, suggesting the myriad functions performed by cells in the human body and in other life forms.


2. Nucleus, Cytoplasm, Membrane Video (4:21)

With this video clip, students learn the three main parts of a cell — the nucleus, cytoplasm, and cell membrane — and can discuss generally what each part does. What constitutes a cell? More than any other structures, it’s the nucleus, cytoplasm, and membrane. Explore the form and function of these three critical cell parts in this video segment.

3. Cell Membrane: Just Passing Through Interactive

With this interactive game, students explore the gatekeeper role of the cell membrane.  There may be a dozen different types of materials passing through the membrane of a cell at any one time. The job of the membrane is to regulate this movement in order to maintain the proper balance of ions, water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and other molecules. This interactive feature illustrates the movement of some of these materials and describes the structures that make it possible.

4.  Organelles in the Cytoplasm Video (6:06)

Follow up by examining in more detail the organelles located in the cytoplasm. Much like complex organisms with organs that perform specific tasks, cells have many organelles that keep them functioning properly. Explore some of a cell’s most important structures in this video segment.

5. Animal and Plant Cell Images

There are some striking differences between plants and animals, especially vertebrate animals. But how different are human cells from the cells of a plant? Students will compare the two images provided.


With numerous engaging media activities woven together, it is no wonder these resources were a top hit with California educators last month!


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