Building Cell Models in GIS

March 4, 2017 by eklose

MS-LS1-2 asks students to develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function. One of the main practices in the NGSS are to develop and use models. Models can take on so many forms. In an effort to increase technology uses and get my students familiar with an online mapping environment (which we’ll use later in the semester), I tasked my students with creating an imaginary geographic place, such as a park, city, state, or continent. Students then added features to a map of their imaginary place that has a similar function to an organelle in the cell. 

As background knowledge, I used lessons adapted from . The factory metaphor allows students to begin thinking about making a connection between the parts of a factory and the organelles in the cell. Once students have successfully completed that activity, scaling this up to a geographic place is a logical step for most students. Some students may need some scaffolding and extra assistance in making connections between geographic places and organelle functions.

Students have an account in our Arcgis Online Organization account at the school. They created a new map, found a place they wanted to create their imaginary geographic location, and then used the Map Notes drawing tools to create features. Students learned how to add points, lines, and polygons. Students changed symbols and learned how to add a photograph instead of a symbol. For each feature, students wrote a description of the map feature, including how that feature functions in a manner similar to the organelle in the cell. Students were tasked with including the same organelles that were used in the Science Net Links lesson.

In the interest of student privacy, I’ll share my sample map below. Click on each of the features to read the descriptions. Hint: Move the map to the East. The display is a bit wonky as my island crosses the International Date Line.