Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic cells

The understanding of cell structure and sub-cellular structures in relation to function is a fundamental concept in biology. GCSE students need to understand the similarities and differences between Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic cell structure and sub-cellular structures and how this relates to function. Sub-cellular structures include: the nucleus/genetic material, plasmids, mitochondria, chloroplasts and cell membranes. GCSE Biology students need to be able to effectively use a light microscope and explain how electron microscopy has increased understanding of sub-cellular structures. They also need to be familiar with the culturing of micro-organisms using aseptic technique.

A common difficulty with this topic area is the understanding of the concept of a cell as a 3D structure. Teaching strategies to address this include using modelling activities, where students make a cell and sub-cellular structures using a variety of substances such as plastic bags, wallpaper paste, golf balls, peas etc.. There are also a number of websites that provide 3D images of the cell which will help to overcome this misconception.

 Developing the required microscopy skills often proves difficult for many students, and labelled diagrams produced as a result are poor with labels not carefully added. A range of practical activities should be incorporated into the teaching strategy for this topic to help develop the fine motor skills required in effective microscopy.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.