Making Cells and Seeing Organelles: A Visual and Tactile Exploration of Cellular Structure

Kim Mayes, Science, Cochrane Collegiate Academy

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


In this four-week unit students will apply their knowledge of cellular structure and functions to create various iterations of cell diagrams. Students will engage in several attempts at creating and revising cellular models in a manner that requires explanations and evidence-based arguments through experience. Images of cells vary due to the different imaging methods of microscopes. Students’ visual experience of cells changes and the continuity of the organelles becomes distorted by the biological magnifying microscope, the electron imaging of cells, and the 3D renderings under optical microscopes. And too often textbooks provide oversimplified diagrams in varying iterations. Student participation in multiple creative iterations and depictions of cellular structure allows them to focus on the pieces of the whole and to compare and contrast organelles across images and diagrams. By manipulating the pieces of a cell structure, they formulate connections and obtain a greater understanding of cellular structure, while reconciling the inconsistencies in images of cells. Students will be able to visually identify and communicate scientific knowledge of cellular forms in a multitude of ways while engaging in a culturally relevant and community practice that activates resources in nontraditional ways.