Cell Analogy Project Ideas

Instructor: Eric Campos

Eric has tutored in English, writing, history, and other subjects.

Understanding cells and their structures is a crucial element of initial education. A fun and informative way for students to grasp what cells are and how they work is through cell analogy projects. Keep reading to learn more.

Teaching Through Analogies

Analogies help break down complicated concepts by introducing comparisons that, while not equivalent, are similar enough to provoke an understanding of the subject being compared. The analogy is a great tool for explaining scientific topics, especially cellular structure. This is because cells have specific components, each serving a function within the cell itself. Cell analogies can be drawn using all kinds of organizations and machines. The important thing to remember is that whatever analogy is used, there must be features present that can relate to the structures inside cells. Let's take a look at a few project ideas.

Cell-City Analogy Project

In many ways cities are living entities just like cells. Cities thrive on organization through certain offices and physical buildings that help it function and support the lives of the citizenry. The same can be said of cells, which makes for a great analogy. This project can be done several ways. Students can simply write down a list that pairs each cell structure with an aspect of a physical city. For example, the city limit (or even a city wall) can compare to the cell wall, and so on. As part of their projects students should craft a cell representation with its different parts mimicking key buildings/roles of a city. Be sure students list their explanations for each cell-city analogy to ensure that they grasp the function of each cell structure.

Another variation of this analogy project would be to make this into a group project by assigning each team an individual cell part. The group will then research that aspect of the cell and develop an analogy that relates it to the city. When each group presents their work, a complete city is formed! Here you can find resources to help with investigating different cell parts:

The Cell As A Factory

Like a factory creating products for sale, cells process energy and raw materials in order to make the body function. Instruct your students to construct a model or layout of a cell like a traditional factory and give you a tour. Again, you want explanations of how the cell structures fit into the cell as a whole. Students should be considering questions like, What do cells do? and How do the nucleus, cytoplasm, and other parts contribute to the process? Students should then focus on answering the question of how a cell is like a factory. By researching and identifying the different parts of cells, they will be able to come up with clever comparisons.

Analogy Collage

Another project idea is to have your students create a cell analogy collage. Instead of focusing on a single analogy, the collage will break down each cell structure individually and compare it with an object or entity that does a similar task. Here's an example: for the mitochondria, a student might include the image of a battery because of its role in storing and supplying energy.

This project offers a lot of room for creativity as well. The collage can include photographs or drawn images that the students choose. Another alternative to a straightforward collage could be a slideshow of cell structures and their analogies.

Create Original Cell Analogies

Instead of assigning your students a specific analogy project, you can have them create their own cell analogies. As long as they can relate aspects of their chosen entity to the functions and structures inside cells, the analogy can be used. Here are a few more analogy ideas you can suggest to your class to get them started on creating their own analogies:

  • How is a cell like a school?
  • How is a cell like a car?
  • How is a cell like a warehouse?

Additional Resources

To help you implement your cell analogy projects, it may help to further research cells and their functions with our fun video lessons on Cell Biology. In addition to a detailed video lessons on cell structure, there are also lesson quizzes and a comprehensive exam to make sure the material is sinking in. These resources can easily be used in the classroom as well.

There are also lesson plan resources geared toward helping teachers implement engaging activities in the classroom. The following resources can help enhance understanding of cells:

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