Why Does Mitosis Matter?

This year’s Mitosis unit is running in this way:

I started the concept of Mitosis by talking about Henrietta Lacks and her mysterious cancer cells, which of course divide through Mitosis. This is such a great way to introduce a seemingly dry molecular topic because it gives the students a reason to care. In 10 minutes, you can pull in ethics, medicine, history and civil rights all surrounding this topic and get your kids fired up about the injustice of it all. The Power Point that I created for this lecture is here: Mitosis

planaria planarian2







After discussing the big picture about Mitosis, what it is, why it happens, how cells know to do it, I then introduced my students to our next organisms of study, the Planaria. Planaria are fascinating and tangible and the kids really do feel that they are doing science when they are “creating” new worms. Howard Hughes Medical Institute has a GREAT lesson that revolves about Planaria regeneration and you can access that information here. I love this lab for so many reasons. You can take it as far as you would like. The lab sheet explains exactly where and how to cut the worms so that they will regenerate in a predictable manner if you are working with younger students, or, you can let your students run with it and explore this idea on their own. I let my kids have as many worms as they wanted and to cut them however they wanted to see what the results would be. Also, if like me, time is not an issue for you, you can let your students explore the regeneration rates of these worms in different environmental contexts. My students this year were interested in the affect water temperature would have on the worm fragments and the affect light has on the worm fragment regeneration. Planaria generally repel light so my students wanted to see if this would have an affect on their regeneration rates…we will have to wait a few more days to see on this one.

For outside work following this lab, I have asked the students to research various labs around the globe that are extensively researching Planaria and why they are doing so. This is to tie in a real life application of what is happening in our lab to what is happening out there in the world.

As a final wrap up to the Mitosis topic (before diving into DNA and then Meiosis), I addressed the specifics of the DNA function and location during duplication. I modified an existing activity this year to use cooked spaghetti noodles to represent Chromatin and am having the students create a Snap Chat story involving the manipulation of their noodles through the different stages of Mitotic division. I wrote another post about that and you can find that here, Mitosis With A Side Of Sauce.

As always, if you use or adapt any of these ideas, please come back and share with me. Let me know how it’s going and what worked or didn’t work for you. And, if you plan to publish these activities anywhere, please refer to this Blog as the source and me as the author.

Thanks so much! Happy dividing 🙂