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Unicellular & Multicellular Organism Activities

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

There are many ways to help students understand the similarities and differences between unicellular and multicellular organisms. Sometimes we just need to think beyond the textbook and maybe think outside of the box.

Teaching Students about Multicellular and Unicellular Organisms

There are some topics in science that can be a bit dry for both students and teachers. Teaching about multicellular and unicellular organisms is one of them. However, there are ways to engage students in inquiry and even humor while teaching this topic!

Single Cell Survivors

Single-celled organisms, such as algae, need very specific conditions to survive in the world. While most teachers will avoid experimenting with unicellular organisms and their environments for safety reasons, green algae is a safe and an easy choice to use in the classroom.

Materials

  • cultures of photosynthetic algae (such as Spirogyra)
  • plant fertilizer
  • baby food jars
  • water
  • microscope slides
  • slide covers
  • microscopes
  • Mini pipettes capable of 0.1 microliters
  • 1 mL disposable pipettes
  • graduated cylinders

Procedures

  • Explain to students that unicellular organisms live a very different life than humans, who are multicellular. Their environment plays a huge role in their survival.
  • Have students brainstorm ideas for how the environment plays a role in unicellular organisms (such as algae's) survival. For example, why would algae thrive in one pond and not another?
  • Once students have identified factors such as light, temperature, and food sources, they are ready to design an experiment to test how these factors influence the survival of unicellular organisms such as algae.

Image of Sprirogyra.
Spirogyra1

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