Friend of mine had their son bring home a “project” to make a cell membrane.  I sighed. But then I thought about how the teacher could have done something with the same material.
And it hit me – science teachers need to see how to take that internet or youtube project and make it a PBL project.

So, I googled “make a cell membrane project,” just now to simulate this process that the teacher might do.  Based upon 13 ratings it (the one I selected) had 4 stars (out of a possible 5) – so it has to be pretty darn good, right?

The Objectives of this project: (1) To build a model of a cell membrane and (2) to investigate how the cell membrane regulates what moves into and out of cells.

The “Research Questions” of this project: (1) What molecules of the cell membrane do the cotton swabs represent? -and- (2) If a molecule needs to enter or exit the cell and it cannot fit between the phospholipids, how can it cross the membrane?

Reading this made me think of the movie I enjoyed as a young boy: Fantastic Voyage. And I suddenly had a concept for the project. What if the students read the book or watched the movie and had to write their own chapter for the story where the crew had to move between cells in their craft.

What if they had to create a cell and craft that were able to fit on a small table (for display)? What would they make the cell out of? What if they were required to explain how the craft moved through the cell walls?

Let’s roll with this idea – Students are working for a toy company who will be working with a movie company creating an updated version of the movie “Fantastic Voyage.” They are to create a mock up of a vehicle and a cell that would be scientifically accurate and will be sold to children ages 8 to 12. Their cell structure is to have an educational value and must be able to show the structure of a cell and must demonstrate the process of a molecule crossing a cell membrane. And, for this situation, the vehicle the crew will travel in must move like a molecule.

There you go. (Almost) the same project that I found on the internet. Except, in this case, the students are given the task of creating a cell structure that can demonstrate molecules crossing the cell membrane. They will have questions that will lead to inquiry (we can assume) which, in turn, will lead to a need for scaffolding (by the teacher or a guest lecturer) about how cells function.

And, if done right, students will have to interact with a book or a movie giving this project an additional literacy angle for a written product.

I’m not a science teacher but I’m betting your average science teacher could take what I suggested and run with an awesome (and fun) educational project that will help students understand the cell structure and the function of the various parts of a cell.

If you are a good science teacher tell us about this project by using the resources at  Start with the Project Planner.  Once you have it all planned out send me a link in the comments section and then I can share it out on Twitter to our science friends using #scichat.

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