Summer Research Program for Science Teachers


Frontiers in Physiology


Reprinted with permission from 2004 Works in Progress. Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society


Larissa Raven

Emerson High School, Union City, NJ

August 2003                                                                                       



Cell Swelling and Shrinking



Teacher Section


Purpose:         The purpose of this activity is to allow students to understand the behavior

of different types of cells through the process of osmosis.  Students will also gain insight into the concept of dehydration and the importance of

keeping the body hydrated.


Content Objectives:  The student will be able to:

·        Appreciate the relevance of osmosis as applied to the concept of dehydration.

·        Identify the function and structure of semi-permeable membranes.

·        Discover differences between types of cells.

·        Predict how processes at the cellular level affect the functions and characteristics of an organism.


Process Objectives:    The student will be able to:

·        Identify and explain structure and function.

·        Use microscopes to make observations.

·        Apply process of scientific investigation.

·        Show that scientific knowledge must be based on evidence and is subject to modification.


Grade Level:  This activity is geared towards 9-12th grade Biology students working in       

cooperative groups.


National          K-12 Unifying Concepts and Processes

Science           Systems, order, and organization

Education        Evidence, models, and explanation

Standards:       Change, constancy, and measurement

                        Form and function

                        Grades  9-12

                        Science as Inquiry

                        Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

                        Understanding about scientific inquiry

                        Life Science

                        The cell

                        Behavior of organisms

                        Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

                        Personal and community health

                        History and Nature of Science

                        Nature of scientific knowledge



Time                This lesson will take several days, depending on length of class time.  For   

Required:       a block schedule, the lesson can be separated into two days.  For a

traditional schedule, the lesson can be divided into four or five days.



Prior Knowledge:       This activity is designed for students who have a basic knowledge of

                        cells, permeable membranes, osmosis, and use of the light microscope.


Including All Students:  This lesson appeals to a variety of learning styles:

·        Visual (watching movie clip, viewing cell changes, & treasure hunt)

·        Auditory (discussions & presentations)

·        Tactile (experiment & presentation preparation)



Safety:                        Normal laboratory safety precautions should be followed.  The teacher

should approve experiments designed by students, prior to its implementation, and supervise experiments while being carried out.



·        Overhead Projector & Transparencies (poster boards can substitute)

·        Microscopes

·        Wet mount animal cell slides

·        Wet mount plant cell slides

·        Pipettes

·        Beakers/Test tubes of:

o       Nacl – sodium solution

o       Glucose/Sucrose solution

o       Water



·        Set up VCR and movie clip prior to class.

·        Prepare wet mount slides and solutions prior to class.

·        Make arrangements for computers with internet access or make printed copies of web sites incase internet is inaccessible.



Procedure:     Day One (Block Schedule) 

                        Engage Students                                    

1.  Students are shown a clip from the movie ‘Castaway’.  This clip   

     demonstrates the main character trying to find water to drink.  The     

     purpose of showing the clip is to engage students and tie them into the  

     lesson.   (5 min.)


Explore Concepts

2.      Students are given KWL handouts (attached) and asked to write down, 

individually, ‘What they know’ and ‘What they want to know’ about causes of dehydration and consequences of dehydration. (10 min.)


3.      Class lists are compiled on an overhead.  One list is made up of what the students think they know and a second list is made up of what the

students want to know.  (10 min.)


4.      Students work in groups of three to four.  Students are asked the following question:  “If stranded on a deserted island, which of these three solutions would be the best source for keeping you hydrated?”  They are told to design an experiment, using the materials provided, which will support their predictions. (5 min.)


5.      Students design an experiment to test their predictions.  Their

experimental design must include a data table and be teacher approved

prior to implementation. (5 min.)


6.      Students implement their experiment with teacher supervision.

      (25 min.)


7.  Students prepare overhead presentations for class which show their 

     experimental design and results.  They are given a self-evaluation   

     rubric to insure they cover all the points required for the presentation

    (attached). (20 min.)


Day Two

Explain Results

1.  Students present experimental design and results to the class.  All

                             students must participate in some aspect of the presentation.

                             (30 min.)


2.  Students are assigned lab write-up for their portfolio.



Elaborate with Further Investigation

3.  Students are given a treasure hunt assignment to do online in pairs  

     (attached). (30 min.)


Evaluate Activities

4.  Students share the information learned from their online search and 

     then the two class lists are reviewed from the KWL activity.  The first

     list ‘What they know’ is checked for accuracy by the students.  The 

     questions from the second list, ‘What they want to know’, are answered 

     by the class. (20 min.)  


5.  Students fill in the ‘What I learned’ section of the KWL for homework.


Suggestions for Assessments:

·        KWL completed for homework

·        Class participation – discussions

·        Internet Treasure Hunt

·        Self-evaluation rubric

·        Presentations

·        Lab write-up



References & Resources:

·        Clark T Hung, Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering:  Physical Effects on Cells, High School Summer Course.  Cell Swelling/Shrinking Laboratory.  Columbia University.  New York, 2003.









What I Know                                                    Name ______________________________

What I Want to Know                                    Date _________________

What I Learned                                                Period _______

Topic of Discussion:              What are the causes of dehydration?

                                                   What are the consequences of dehydration?

What I Know about the causes and consequences of dehydration.

What I Want to know about the causes and consequences of dehydration.

What I Learned  about the causes and consequences of dehydration.
























Group Self-Evaluation Rubric


Names:  ___________________________________________________________________________________________________    

                                                                                                                                           Date: ____________   Period: __________


Possible Points




Constants and Variables











Clearly stated as a question





Clearly stated and supports problem





Includes materials used and adequately tests hypothesis


Includes at least three constants and one variable identified


Clearly stated and supported by evidence


Graph, Charts, Table, or Notes on design



Supported by results, includes any design errors, and possible solutions


Overhead is clear, concise, and self-explanatory




Complete understanding of topic and proper use of scientific concepts and terminology


All students in the group participate in well-planned presentation









Clearly stated, not as a question





Supports problem but not clearly stated





Includes materials used but does not adequately test hypothesis


Includes at least two constants and one variable identified



 Clearly stated, but not supported by evidence



Graph, Chart, Table, or Notes on design are incorrect



Supported by results and includes any errors in design of procedure



Overhead is clear and concise, but requires explanation




Good understanding of topic and good use of scientific concepts and terminology



All students in the group participate in presentation, but not well-planned










Not clearly stated







Does not support problem and is not clearly stated





Does not include materials used and does not adequately test hypothesis


Includes at least one constant and one variable identified





Not clearly stated and not supported by evidence



Graph, Chart, Table, or Notes on design are not complete



Supported by results – or – not supported by results; and lacks design errors and possible solutions


Overhead is lacking in clarity and requires explanation






Weak understanding of topic and little use of scientific concepts and terminology




One or more students do not participate in presentation














Not stated



Not stated



Not stated



Not stated



No results


No data



No conclusion



No organization



No understanding



No presentation







 Total Points Awarded                                                                                                                                                          

Note:   A = 50-45 points; B = 44-40 points; C = 39-35 points; D = 34-30 points; F = 29 – 0 points                                                  



Permission is granted to reprint for classroom or workshop use by The American Physiological Society, 2001.



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