(IN PROGRESS) Learning activities


This story suggests lots of interesting topics for discussion and research, and there are loads of websites out there with fun and interesting learning activities related to the science.

Why not have a go at generating your own activities using any or all of the method described in Getting the topics, the Real Science search tool, or the brief list of websites provided below?

Here's one suggestion to give you an idea of what's possible:

Cells are divided into compartments called organelles.

Control of Membrane Traffic: using yeast as a model organism1) Have a go at the The Cell and its Organelles game at the Nobel Prize website. This is a bit of fun that gives you a flavour of the various organelles inside a cell, and what each of them does.

2) Now let's see what Nia Bryant has to say about her work. Take a look at this Word document.

We've pulled out what she says about the science. Then we've had a go at classifying her statements using our Getting the topics methods.

Let's see how we can use this to explore the science being done by Dr Bryant and her group.

Real Science Jigsaw

We're going to describe a class activity that can be used for any of the articles in Real Science. It's based on cooperative learning and DARTs (directed activities related to text). Details may change with the story, and can be adapted by teacher or students. But the overall structure remains the same. Here it is:

Overall structure

We use the cooperative learning technique called Jigsaw. This sounds complicated on a first reading, but it works very well in practice - especially when students have done it a time or two.

Each student works in two groups, a home group and a jigsaw group. There are five home tables, one for each of the home groups. There are four jigsaw tables, on for each of the jigsaw groups.

In the home group every student is responsible for one statement from a story. He or she leaves the home group to research that statement along with students from each of the other home groups, who are researching theirs. Every students in each new group is researching the same type of statement. So there is a jigsaw group for Aims, another for Accepted knowledge, another for Methods and technology and another for Applications and issues.

Once they have researched and discussed their statements at the jigsaw tables, students return to the home group to share what they have learned and hear what their colleagues have to tell them. Every student is responsible for a piece of the research and gets to hear about all the others' research.

Details of the activity

Every science story is written using different types of statement - around ten in all - the most common in a news story being New findings, Accepted knowledge, Methods and technology and Applications and issues.

In Meet the Scientist stories there tend to be fewer statements about New findings and more about Aims of the research and Hypotheses.

The first task is to take the parts of the story that deal with the science and collect the statements belonging to each type together. We've done this for you. Here are links to documents containing the Aims of the research, Accepted knowledge, Methods and technology, and Applications or issues from the Nia Bryant story.

So here are the steps in the whole activity for a class of 20.

1) Form five home groups, each with four students.

2) Give each group a copy of the whole text and of each separate document.

3) Get students at each home table to number themselves from 1 to 4, starting with the tallest student, the one nearest the window, the one who ate most for breakfast - vary it each time for interest.

4) Student 1 will be investigating Aims of the research. Student 2 will be investigating Accepted knowledge. Student 3 will be investigating Methods and technology. Student 4 will be investigating Applications and issues.

5) Get the groups to number themselves similarly from 1 to 5.

6) Table 1 gets Statement 1 of the Aims, Table 2 gets Statement 2 of the Aims, Table 3 gets Statement 3 of the Aims, Table 4 gets Statement 4 of the Aims, Table 5 gets Statement 1 of the Aims (since there are only 4 Aims statements).

7) Renumber the home tables.

8) The new Table 1 gets Statement 1 of the Accepted Knowledge, Table 2 gets Statement 2 of the Accepted Knowledge, Table 3 gets Statement 3 of the Accepted Knowledge, Table 4 gets Statement 4 of the Accepted Knowledge, Table 5 gets Statement 5 of the Accepted Knowledge, Table 1 gets Statement 6 of the Accepted Knowledge (since there are only 6 Accepted Knowledge statements, one table gets two).

9) Renumber the home tables.

10) The new Table 1 gets Statement 1 of the Methods and technology, Table 2 gets Statement 2 of the Methods and technology, Table 3 gets Statement 3 of the Methods and technology, Table 4 gets Statement 4 of the Methods and technology, Table 5 gets Statement 1 of the Methods and technology (since there are only 4 Methods and technology statements).

11) Renumber the home tables.

12) The new Table 1 gets Statement 1 of the Applications and issues, Table 2 gets Statement 2 of the Applications and issues, Table 3 gets Statement 3 of the Applications and issues, Table 4 gets Statement 4 of the Applications and issues, Table 5 gets Statement 1 of the Applications and issues (since there are only 4 Applications and issues statements).

14) Each student at each home table now has one statement - apart from one student who has two statements on Accepted knowledge - and each student at each table has a statement from a different category.

15) Now the students regroup at the jigsaw tables. Those with Aims statements go to the Aims table. Those with Accepted knowledge statements go to the Accepted knowledge table. Those with Methods and technology statements go to the Methods and technology table. Those with Applications and issues statements go to the Applications and issues table.

16) The task now is to research the statements they have been assigned with the help of their new colleagues, who all have similar types of statement. They should use the Real Science search engine, created specifically for the purpose, which searches a restricted number of good education and science sites. Each student is responsible for his/her own statement and for getting the bigger picture on all those statements from the new colleagues.

17) Output from the jigsaw group should be in one of many different forms - paragraph of text, text and images, PowerPoint presentation, Dreamweaver webpage, Wordpress blog post - depending on the age/experience of the students. The aim is to pull together all the research at that jigsaw table and take it back to the home group.

18) Once the jigsaw groups have done their work, students return to their home groups and take turns to share what they have learned with their colleagues. In this way every student is exposed, directly or indirectly, to the work done by the class on the entire text.

Worked example

Let's suppose we're part of the Methods and technology jigsaw group for Nia Bryant's story. We'll see how they might go about researching the statements they have been given. Note: none of this is prescriptive. Each group is free to organise themselves, with minimal intervention by the teacher.

Here are the statements we have to look into.

So Dr Bryant and her group are working with yeast as a model organism.

We did a study last year in which we took a yeast cell and deleted a gene that encodes a particular protein. That gave a defect in the cell.

We then took the corresponding protein from a mammalian cell, expressed it in those yeast cells.

So we use findings from the basic science in the applied science side.

If I was doing this, I'd first want to find out what a number of strange-looking words and phrases were trying to tell me. Words like "model organism", "delete a gene", "encode a protein", "defect in the cell", "analogous protein", "mammalian cell", "basic science", "applied science". None of this would mean much to me.

So I would take a look first at the pop-up definitions. This would tell me a little more than I knew to start with. I'd discover for instance that

Need a word game here for the younger kids.

Then I would search on these same words and phrases using the Real Science search engine, which searches a set of sites selected by us for their educational and sometimes entertainment value.

Students can refine their search by clicking on "Learner level", which eliminates a lot of the more advanced sites from the search. "Visuals" and "Activities" are also useful for learners. They can also try whichever of Aims, Accepted Knowledge, Methods and technology, etc. that their jigsaw group is nvestigating.

Teachers can use Learner level for quick reminders and intros to unfamiliar areas but should avoid it if they want more detail.


A few extra phrases to search on

Aims of the research: insulin, insulin signal. Accepted knowledge: Methods and technology: central dogma, knockout gene, genetic defect. Applications and issues: make a neuron, ethics animal test,






At each table the four students have


Alternative home table numbering which may be easier but is less transparent and clearly random to the students. Number the tables once and then assign statements to each table using Excel-generated random numbers.



At the core of every pairing between transport vesicle and target membrane lies an interaction between so-called SNARE proteins. First discovered as proteins found on synaptic vesicles and at the presynaptic plasma membrane, SNAREs are members of a family of highly conserved proteins that reside on vesicles (v-SNAREs) or target membranes (t-SNAREs; refs 1–4). Almost every step in membrane trafficking is carried out by a distinct set of SNARE pairs, and the SNAREs that mediate a given transport step (from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to Golgi, from Golgi to plasma membrane, and so on) are conserved from yeast to humans5.

whats old

whats new

how they did it

so what


The control of SNARE complex formation and function.
The ability of insulin to stimulate glucose transport into muscle and adipose tissue is a central facet of whole body glucose homeostasis. Insulin stimulates glucose transport by inducing the translocation of the glucose transporter Glut4 from an intracellular store to the cell surface. Individuals with insulin-resistance and Type 2 diabetes exhibit a significant impairment in the ability of insulin to stimulate glucose transport, largely due to a failure of the translocation machinery. Hence understanding the molecular basis of this phenomenon is of fundamental importance.

The insulin-dependent delivery of Glut4-containing vesicles to the plasma membrane is a specialised example of regulated membrane trafficking. The Glut4-containing vesicles are mobilised in response to a specific signal (insulin binding its receptor) and move to the cell periphery. Once at the cell surface, the vesicles dock and then fuse with the plasma membrane. This fusion step is mediated by the action of SNARE proteins.

Hypothetical model for SNARE complex formation during regulated exocytosis

Studies in both mammalian and yeast systems have led to the identification of a family of conserved proteins that function in membrane fusion using a mechanism highly conserved through evolution - this is known as the SNARE hypothesis. In its simplest form, the SNARE hypothesis states that the fusion of a donor membrane with its target is mediated by the specific pairing of target (t)-SNAREs with a cognate vesicle (v)-SNARE. Specific v- and t-SNARE combinations are involved in all membrane trafficking events in mammalian cells. Recently, my lab has reconstituted this process in vitro and shown that the formation of the Syntaxin4/SNAP-23/VAMP2 ternary complex is sufficient to fuse membranes (see figure below). We are now studying how the formation of this complex is controlled, focussing upon phosphorylation as a potential regulatory mechanism, and also studying how SM processes control this process.

software tips, product reviews, workflow productivity ideas, cartooning & illustration techniques by George Coghill. CoghillCartooning.com

Find out more

Cells Alive

Model organisms at Teachers Domain

Biology4kids quiz

Within cells there is an intricate network of organelles that all have unique functions.








Hertfordshite grid for learning

C elegans model