Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Homeschool Biology: Shrink Plastic Cell Models, and 14 Other Cell Models

February was so busy with Girl Scout cookie business that I could hardly find time to work on new lesson plans, grr. In some ways that worked out well--Will got a lot more time to work on AP European History and algebra, and Syd got a lot more time to sneak off and make art--but I got frustrated at continually delaying many of our in-depth lessons in science and robotics. 

For science, at least, I finally decided that since we weren't moving forward, we'd instead review by completing some of the lessons that I'd planned for the kids in earlier chapters but that we'd skipped or skimped on for whatever reason. 

And that's how we found ourselves one afternoon hanging out on my bed with kettle corn and tea, me working on Girl Scout cookie accounting and the kids watching Crash Course videos on cell biology and coloring shrink plastic cell models.

I think handmade models have a hugely important place in the learning process. Just as I liked, when the kids were little, to give them lots of moveable alphabets in as many different style and materials as possible, I like having my older kids make models of what they're learning whenever possible, and, if possible, in a multiplicity of styles and materials. Just the repetition of building and identifying the key components in each model aids learning, of course, but creating a variety of models improves and refines the way that the brain categorizes the information, as well. 

And of course if it's fun, that's when the best learning takes place!

Kids can draw their own cell models on shrink plastic sheets, or trace any good coloring page drawing, but we use these shrink plastic cell model templates. The kids trace the outline in Sharpie on the shrink plastic sheet, and then color in and label all of the organelles.

And then we shrink them in the oven. It's excellent fun.

Make the shrink plastic cell models for sure, but here are plenty of other cell model projects to keep you occupied every time you spiral back to cell biology--or just anytime you're feeling crafty!

  1. edible cell model. The girls have made these in both cake and cookie versions. Both are super easy if you have a square and a round cake pan; kids can choose the frosting and candy (or fruit) decorations to model the organelles. Rice Krispy Treat cell models and sushi cell models are no-bake options.
  2. 3D pen cell model. The kids received a 3D pen for Christmas, and we're still learning all the awesome things to make with it. This is one more!
  3. Altoid tin cell model. This is a good upcycling project if you can get your hands on the Altoids tins. You could put each type of cell model in each compartment, or use one compartment for the model and the other to hold definition cards of the organelles.
  4. animal cell cookie cutter. I do not own this cookie cutter--I just want to!
  5. cell coloring book. The coloring book is legit and I have it, although I gave them a burner email address (of course!) to get it.
  6. cell model T-shirt. I LOVE this idea! If kids put a lot of craftsmanship and care into it, they'll be able to wear it until they grow out of it, showing it off and reinforcing the identifications possibly hundreds of times.
  7. felt cell model. This model would be super cute for an older kid to create, or for an adult to create for a very young learner. I totally should have made my babies cell model stuffies!
  8. giant inflatable plant cell. Um, this plant cell model is AMAZING. Not only does the tutorial include instructions on sizing each 3D organelle model correctly, but it teaches you how to make an inflatable walk-in plant cell model from plastic drop cloths, duct tape, and a fan.
  9. LEGO cell model. I like the simplicity of this cell model, as well as how easily LEGOs lend themselves to making a plant cell, in particular.
  10. organelle models. As the kids grow older, we're more drawn to the types of models that aren't just step-by-step tutorials, but require problem-solving and engineering to construct.This is one such project, and although the post focuses on organelle models, I think it would be really cool to turn this into a large-scale project by modelling ALL the organelles and turning your entire family room into one giant cell. I mean, you're a homeschooler--your family room is SUPPOSED to look like some weird, over-elaborate educational project.
  11. plant cell model on a Styrofoam meat tray. I wouldn't use a Styrofoam meat tray because I think it's gross, but it IS just the right shape for a plant cell...
  12. play dough cell model. If you don't need more stuff to display forever, then a play dough cell model might be the way to go.
  13. polymer clay cell model. OMG, this would be right up Syd's alley!
  14. toolbox cell model. I like that this cell model includes lots of random bits and pieces from around the house and garage, including a couple of different kinds of screws and a brillo pad.

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