I have found that Mitosis and Meiosis can be complicated to teach because like much of molecular biology, my students can’t get their hands on the process to fully understand it. I have done lots of activities in the past using candy or pipe cleaners but this year I am doing something a little differently, I have decided to use cooked spaghetti noodles to simulate the chromatin. I am including the lesson plan below. As with other lessons and projects, if you use or publish this material, please cite this webpage as your source and me as the author…thanks so much!!
Lesson Plan: Mitosis, With A Side of Sauce
Goals and Objectives:
The goal of this lesson is to give the students some tangible ownership over the process of mitosis without getting caught up in the details of terminology. This lesson can be used as an introductory activity to the process of Mitosis or it can be used as a follow up to a discussion/lecture on the process.
I have found that students have a hard time conceptualizing what is actually happening with the chromatin/chromosomes during the process of mitosis. The diagrams in the books and on the web are too abstract, in my opinion, for them to achieve any kind of real life connection with. This activity gives them 30 minutes to take the process step by step and really show whether or not they get the big picture and understand the details. This is a good alternative to the pipe cleaner activity and is a bit better, in my opinion, because they are using the same noodles throughout the entire process instead of getting new pipe cleaners along the way.
1. Give each student the following:
~ 10 cooked spaghetti noodles
~ a paper plate
~they will need their smartphones or cameras
2. In respect of time, I think it would be best to cook your spaghetti noodles at home before the activity. You could also have the students cook them for homework and bring them in. You may want to break the noodles in ½ before cooking so they are easier to work with.
3. Have students partner up with their lab partners
4. Have each student show their knowledge of mitosis through the manipulation of their spaghetti noodles. Have them start with their noodles spread out on their paper plate (as chromatin) and tell them that your whistle is the Progression factor hormone, Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) that instructs the cell to enter Mitosis. At this point, turn your students loose and let them express the steps of Mitosis using their spaghetti noodles. They need to document each step by taking photos and turning these photos into a brief movie. This can easily be done using Snap Chat movies or Instagram movies. If you have an Instagram page for your science class they can post it there or, you can create a snap chat account for your science class. The only problem is that the snap chat movies only last for 24 hours once they are shared so you can’t keep them indefinitely.
- When completed, have each group share their movie with the class to look for inconsistencies or to identify common themes.
Assessment of Student Learning:
Every lesson does not need a written test or quiz, but each lesson should check for student understanding. You can do the traditional assessment and ask the students to answer questions on the process of mitosis or you can also transfer the learning to the lab setting and set up a number of microscopes around the lab with pre-determined (by you) slides of onion root mitotic division and have the students identify the stages based off of their observations.
You can modify this lesson to teach the process of Meiosis as well. You can do the activity as described above but this time make 2 pots of spaghetti noodles, one regular and one in colored water (with food coloring, green or blue works best for me). Give each student 10 noodles, 5 regular and 5 colored, and have them show the process of meiosis (including crossing over) with the noodles. It will be easy for them to see the specific steps of the process because of the different colored noodles.