An ExCELLent Collaboration (AIG IRP)
Within the life science strand of 7th grade science, students focus on the processes, structures, and functions of living organisms that enable them to survive, reproduce, and carry out the basic functions of life. In this task, students research endosymbiotic theory and create fictional narratives from the point of view of the prokaryotic cell, aerobic bacterium, and photosynthetic bacterium involved in the collaboration forming the first eukaryotic cell. The interdisciplinary and creative nature of this activity allows students to build meaningful connections while promoting 21st Century Skills. This lesson was developed by NCDPI as part of the Academically and/or Intellectually Gifted Instructional Resources Project. This lesson plan has been vetted at the state level for standards alignment, AIG focus, and content accuracy.
Brief Description of Lesson/Task/Activity: Within the life science strand of 7th grade science, students focus on the processes, structures, and functions of living organisms that enable them to survive, reproduce, and carry out the basic functions of life. In this task, students research endosymbiotic theory and create fictional narratives from the point of view of the prokaryotic cell, aerobic bacterium, and photosynthetic bacterium involved in the collaboration forming the first eukaryotic cell. The interdisciplinary and creative nature of this activity allows students to build meaningful connections while promoting 21st Century Skills.
Time Frame: 1-2 class periods (~60-120 minutes)
Type of Differentiation for AIGs:
Adaptations for AIGs:
Explanation of How Resource is Appropriate for AIGs: NC science students are exposed to plant and animal cell structures and functions for the first time in 7th grade. AIG students in the middle grades are often able to quickly grasp this initial information, but are not yet ready to handle the chemistry involved in studying this area in greater depth. This lesson avoids this issue by instead examining how several key organelles may have come to exist within these eukaryotic cells, per the endosymbiotic theory. AIG students need to further develop the research/internet literacy skills that will be essential in advanced courses (AP sciences, etc.), and the creative writing aspect of this assignment will allow AIG students to interact with non-fiction information and demonstrate student understanding in a more personal and interesting manner.
- Computer with internet access
- Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab or another children’s book/activity that examines symbiosis
- Rubric for “An ExCELLent Collaboration” activity
Sources: Student web resources such as University of Utah’s LearnGenetics “The Evolution of the Cell” at https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cells/organelles/, as well as any ancillary text materials available.
Teacher Notes: Students should already be familiar with the organelles of plant and animal cells, as well as their functions. Many resources about endosymbiotic theory focus on supporting evidence as opposed to explanations of the benefits to the unicellular organisms. This supporting evidence can be used in descriptions or additional plot points within the fictional narratives, but the teacher should ensure that students also discover the benefits from entering this collaborative relationship.
Stage 1: Engage
Share Eric Carle’s children’s book A House for Hermit Crab with the students. Review the concept of symbiosis with students and ask students for examples from the text. State that there are many additional types of symbiotic relationships that are easily seen in nature and that occur today, like that between the acacia tree and ants. Some symbiotic relationships, however, are much older and occur at the microscopic level. Explain that Lynn Margulis proposed the Endosymbiotic Theory to describe how and why today’s plant and animal cells contain some of the organelles that the students have been studying.
Stage 2: Elaborate
Students should research the following aspects of Margulis’s Endosymbiotic Theory:
- In what era of Earth’s development is this symbiotic relationship theorized to have begun?
- What independent unicellular organisms were involved?
- What changes were occurring in Earth’s geology, atmosphere, and biomes that encouraged this relationship to occur?
- What were the specific benefits for each of the independent organisms?
- What modern-day organelles in eukaryotic cells are theorized to have developed from this symbiotic relationship?
- What evidence exists that supports this theory?
After completing their research, students may choose one of several creative ways to present this information. Explain to students that they will be writing their presentations using many of the same narrative development strategies that authors use in short stories. Question #1’s answer provides the setting for the main action. Question #2’s answer provides the main characters. Question #3’s answer provides the problem or challenge that must be overcome. Question #4’s answer provides the character’s internal motivation. Question #5’s answer provides the solution to the problem. Question #6’s answer provides details and descriptions of the characters, relationship, and its final results that may be useful.
Prompts from which students may choose include, but are not limited to:
- Write a series of diary entries from the point of view of each of the three organisms that relates the narrative of their symbiotic relationship.
- Compose a conversation in which the first eukaryotic cell explains how much easier the later generation eukaryotic cell’s life is as the first cell reminisces about the development of the symbiotic relationship that formed it.
- Record the negotiations that are occurring in the United Cells Security Council as unicellular organisms debate a revolutionary proposal – endosymbiosis – to respond to the natural disaster that is occurring in their Precambrian Era.
- Build and record a Claymation-style stop-motion or create an animated cartoon with voice-over descriptions/dialogue that relates the narrative of the symbiotic relationship.
Stage 3: Evaluate
All student narratives should be assessed based on the following required elements:
- the setting of the narrative is correctly stated/described
- the main characters are correctly identified and adequately developed/described
- the problem and its causes are correctly identified and developed/described
- the benefits to each organism to participate in the symbiotic relationship are correctly identified and adequately developed/described
- the final results of the symbiotic relationship are correctly identified and adequately developed/described
- the format of the narrative is consistent and appropriate to its purpose
- the point of view is consistent and appropriate to its purpose
A simple 4-point rubric is suggested for use with these elements.
Teacher Notes: Collaborate with students’ ELA and/or technology teachers as necessary to provide support for students in their writing and technology use.