I collapsed in my chair as the students filed out after their mitosis lab. I was exhausted! Students were using their scopes to identify and draw cells in different phases of mitosis. The problem was they couldn’t identify them and needed feedback for each cell. That meant that I was running from student to student answering the same question … “Is this cell in … ? (insert whatever phase they were looking for). There had to be a better way! That’s how I found (drumroll please) the Virtual Mitosis Lab! And if you’d like to see how I “tamed” my freshmen, read this earlier post!
Why a virtual mitosis lab?
It really took me a while, and a little bit of desperation, to get to the point where I was okay with having my kids NOT use a microscope for this lab. I wanted my students to have authentic lab experiences whenever possible. So I always insisted on using our microscopes to look at real cells.
I couldn’t understand WHY they were having so much trouble identifying the different phases. I had great posters up around the room showing large images of real stained cells like the ones they were looking at.
We had done notes and drawings and homework identifying the phases. We’d watched videos showing the process of mitosis. They had bell ringers every day. We’d done activities in class where they sorted images of the phases and described why they placed them where they did.
In short, I was perplexed about why this lab was so difficult for them! Obviously, I needed to find another way.
google images and cell drawings
Google Images became my new best friend. Searching showed me all kinds of beautiful microscopic images of real plant and animal cells in all the phases. So instead of me drawing the phases and students copying them, I started using images on my Smartboard.
This worked so well! Students could see the large images very well, and I was able to draw and label right on the board!
No more trying to show the chromosomes with the microscope pointer. I could clearly label them and they could clearly see and draw them! I felt like dancing around the room!
Expanding the Learning
Since the kids were seeing the phases so much clearer, I wanted to take the concept of the cell cycle and mitosis a bit further. I knew there was a virtual mitosis lab that the University of Arizona had on their website. I’d used it in the past, but in my opinion it wasn’t in-depth enough.
Looking at it with fresh eyes, I decided to add my own spin on it and incorporate the virtual lab into my own lesson. So I added reading comprehension questions and the data tables that were needed. I liked that there were some basic math calculations in the virtual lab and added more specific instructions on how to do them to complete the data table.
I also added a chromosome drawing that students had to label, along with analysis questions about the results of their calculations. Finally, I added drawings of the different phases and asked them to identify the phase and describe the characteristics that led to their decision.
How I Used the Virtual Lab
The new lab was a great addition to our unit on the cell cycle and mitosis!
By using the Google images for doing our drawings along with all of our regular activities, I felt like the students had a much better handle on these concepts. Adding the virtual mitosis lab added a new layer of understanding.
So I used the virtual lab pretty much near the end of the unit before we started reviewing for our assessment. An added perk was that it was perfect for absent students since it could be done independently as long as they had internet access.
In all, I was really happy with the way I changed up my teaching of mitosis. If you’d like to give the virtual lab that I created a try, I’ve uploaded it to my TpT store. You can check it out here.
If you try it, I’d love to hear how it worked for you! Comment below.