Fabricated Cell Models - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

Lesson Details

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To encourage the students to deepen their knowledge of organelles of plant and animal eukaryotic cells. The students and teacher will develop models which include the use of the Shopbot, laser cutter, and vinyl cutter.

What You'll Need

Materials List
Gummed labels

Digital Fabrication Equipment Details

Laser cutter
Vinyl cutter
CNC machine

Vector Graphic Design Software

Design Files attachment: N/A

TEACHER NOTE: A major goal of this lesson is for students to become familiar and comfortable with note-taking in Cornell format. Before class, teacher should be comfortable creating Essential Questions by reframing NGSS and Common Core state standards into questions. Possible Essential Questions include:

  1. Are prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells different?
  2. How do select cellular organelles work within a system?
  3. What is the effect of osmosis in plant/animal cells?
  4. What interaction is there between the skeletal and muscular systems?
  5. How does the structure of the cellular membrane enable what enters and leaves the cell?
  6. How does the structure of DNA allow it to fulfill its function?
  7. How are human body systems organized?
  8. How do negative and positive feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis?

For review of Cornell Notes see the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtW9IyE04OQ

For example of the use of Cornell Notes in Biology class see: http://www.usd230.org/shhs/upload/527a9b7f63b3d.pdf

The Instructions

Step One: Introduce C-note methodology of note-taking

  1. Introduce students to the Cornell Notes system. Highlight the fact that Cornell Notes was created by Walter Pauk, an education Professor at Cornell University in the 1950s. Since that time, the Cornell note-taking method (C-note) has been adopted in biology courses at the high school and college level. Remind students that the C-note method is used both in the United States and internationally.
  2. Explain to students that C-note will help them make connections between ideas, synthesize information, and better apply acquired knowledge to biology concepts such as the structure/function of eukaryotic cell organelles.
  3. Show video on using Cornell Notes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtW9IyE04OQ

Using the mnemonic device CORNELL WAY to review, in whole class, the ten steps involved when using the C-note methodology of note-taking.

Part I (Note-Taking) Students will:

C – Step 1: Create format:

  • Leave 1/3 of the paper on the left for questions and 2/3 on the right for notes.
  • Leave 2 inches on the bottom of each page for summary.
  • Write name, class, date, and topic on top of each page.

O – Step 2: Organize notes on the right side of your note paper]

  • Take notes while listening to lecture
  • Listen and take notes in your own words – paraphrase what you hear
  • Leave spaces for revisions by skipping lines between ideas
  • Abbreviate words and use symbols
  • Write in phrases, not complete sentences
  • Know what to write – differentiate between important information vs. trivial information

Part II: (Note-Making) Students will:

R – Step 3: Review and Revise Notes

  • Distinguish main ideas from details
  • Categorize information by highlighting or color coding
  • Delete unimportant information
  • Add your own thinking – fill in details to clarify, complete, or create greater meaning and understanding
  • Identify unclear information by using a question mark
  • Add references from other materials as they come to mind or make connections to other concept/content
  • Review for possible paper topics or test questions

N – Step 4: Note Key Ideas to Create Questions

  • Write questions on the left side of your notes page that connect to key ideas
  • Review the main ideas highlighter on the right side
  • Determine the purpose of the lecture
  • Read the highlighted main ideas and create higher level questions

E – Step 5: Exchange Ideas by Collaborating

  • Collaborate with a peer(s)
  • Meeting in small groups
  • Share with whole class
  • Compare, enhance, and revise your notes
  • Fill in any gaps and clarify points of confusion
  • Brainstorm a list of key terminology from the lesson to be included in the summary

Part III: (Note-Interacting) Students will:

L – Step 6: Link Learning to Create a Summary

  • Identify the main ideas to be used in the summary by reviewing your notes, questions written on the left side, and prior knowledge
  • Address the essential question of the lesson in the summary
  • Use the notes on the right side for support as you write the summary
  • Combine main ideas by synthesizing; internalize learning from the questions/notes
  • Answer the higher level questions on the left side in the summary to tie together the main ideas

L – Step 7: Learning Tool — Use Completed Notes as a Learning Tool

  • Review notes taken, questions developed, and the summary (individually or with a study group)
  • Apply new learning to increase subject knowledge by using notes to study for a test, write an essay, prepare for a presentation,
  • Interact with material by taking notes, writing questions, and summarizing to internalize the information and increase subsequent learning
  • Use the notes to transfer knowledge to long-term memory by forming connections with and making meaning of the notes

Part IV: (Note-Reflecting) Students will:

W – Step 8: Written Feedback

  • Review, revise, and improve notes, questions, and summary based on feedback by a peer or instructor

A – Step 9: Address Written Feedback

  • Create a goal for improving future note-taking
  • Use the feedback provided to identify an aspect of note taking that is challenging
  • Identify specific actions to address this challenge in future note taking

Y – Step 10: (Your Reflection) Students will:

  • Review your notes, questions and summaries, then reflect on your learning by completing a reflective log to show how new knowledge was mastered and/or applied

Step Two: Practice Taking Cornell Notes 

Essential Questions: Essential Question: How do organisms live and grow?

  1. Illustrate the statement “The cell is the unit of structure and function in living ” Using C-note Note-Taking strartegies, have students, in small groups, read lesson: https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/cells/eukaryotic-cells/a/organelles-article
  2. Have small groups use C-note strategies to answer the following questions:What is the “Brain” of the cell? Why do we call it the “Brain”?What is the “powerhouse” of the cell? Why do we call it the “powerhouse”?
  3. Return to whole class, show students why the nucleus is the “brain” of the cell. Explain that the nucleus directs cell activities and contains genetic material called chromosomes made of DNA.Show pictures: https://www.google.com/search?q=is+the+nucleus+the+brain+of+a+cell&sa=N&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=u niv&ved=0ahUKEwjBqd6U1dPUAhWC1CYKHTXcB0w4ChCwBAg0&biw=1366&bih=638Explain that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell: https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/tdc02.sci.life.cell.mitochondria/the-powerhouse-of-the-cell/#.WUzfXIwrLIU

    Review the structure/function of eukaryotic cell organelles. Show picture:https://www.google.com/searchq=picture+of+eukaryotic+cell+with+labels&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ& sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq5vrR0dPUAhVLKCYKHbFfBi8QsAQIIw&biw=1366&bih=638

  4. Have student return to their groups using C-note Note-Taking strategies to review and revise notes,create questions, and exchange ideas.

Step Three: Design Cell Models in Vector Graphic Software

  1. Organize the students by dividing the class in half; one half constructing a plant cell, one half constructing an animal cell.
  2. Have students design cell and organelles;
    • decide size of cell
    • determine appropriate scaling of organelles or the cell size
    • assign organelles within the whole group to research and designTEACHER NOTE: All done in the classroom, about 40 minutes
  3. Bring students to the FabLab to design organelles in vector graphic softwareTEACHER NOTE: About 45 minutes.
  4. Bring students to FabLab again to load and make the organelle designs on the available machines.TEACHER NOTE: Time will vary due to design constraints – about 3 hours
  5. Have the students assemble the model in class and add labels and descriptions of the function of the organelles.

Formative Assessment: Have students write essays describing their experiences using the C-note method of note-taking.

  1. The essay must show how students revised and improved notes and questions based on feedback from peers and/or instructor.
  2. How the “making” of cell and organelles improved their understanding and provided new knowledge of specific functions within a multicellular organism
  3. How the “making” of cell and organelles improved their understand of digital fabrication as a tool for learning and teaching biological concepts.
  4. As part of student reflection, essay must also indicate how student will use C-note as a Learning Tool to improve note-taking in other subject areas.


NGSS Engineering Standards

  • HS-LS1-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.
  • HS-LS1-2. Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
  • HS-LS1-4. Use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms.

Common Core English Language Arts


  • W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims.
  • W.11-12.1.A-Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • W.11-12.8- Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources.
  • W. 11-12.10- Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Speaking and Listening:

  • SL.  11-12- Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • SL. 11-12.A- Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  • SL. 11-12.B- Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  • SL. 11-12.C- Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
  • SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
  • SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
  • SL.11-12.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

Digital Fabrication Competencies: I Can Statements

  • (S.2) Safety: I can operate equipment in a Fab Lab following safety protocols.
  • (DP.2) Design Process: I can design something in a Fab Lab using a specific process under close instructor guidance.
  • (DP.4) Design Process: I can record and share my ideas during a design process to document the learning process (e.g. journal writing, group reviews, etc.).
  • (DP.5) Design Process: I can work with a group to follow multiple common design process steps (e.g. defining the user, brainstorming, prototyping, iterating, etc. ).
  • (CAD.1) Computer Aided Design: I can draw a basic design using 2D Vector graphics
  • (MO.2) Machine Operation: I can safely operate a digital fabrication machine under close observation of an instructor.
  • (F.4) Fabrication: I can fabricate components of my own design using a single digital fabrication process.
  • (SC.1) Sustainability and Commerce: I use scrap and renewable resources like cardboard first, before using higher cost materials. I understand the cost of various raw materials in the Fab Lab.

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