Cell Song

Steven Meck
Unit Plan
Core Curriculum Content Standards Standards:
5.3.P.A.1 Investigate and compare the basic physical characteristics of plants, humans, and other animals. (Different cell characteristics)
5.3.P.A.2 Observe similarities and differences in the needs of various living things, and differences between living and nonliving things.
5.3.6.A.2 Model and explain ways in which organelles work together to meet the cell’s needs.

Cells, cell song, cell song music video, organelles

Enduring Understandings:
  • The cell has different parts known as organelles
  • These organelles have particular structure and function
  • Structure determines function in organelles
  • The internet holds a vast amount of intellectual resources

Students will be able to:
  • Create a song that helps explain how the cell creates and transports important molecules vital to life by creating a song about them.
  • Design an instructional music video that helps visualize the cell song lyrics that explain the functions of the cell.
  • Identify analogies that help explain the cell.
    • o For example, the mitochondria is the “powerhouse” of the cell, DNA looks like a twisted staircase, etc.
    • Defend their choice of analogies by explaining how the analogy resembles in structure or function an organelle on Instagram.
    • Appraise other students work in relation to the knowledge they have gained in class and through the research they’ve done for the project.

Unit description:
This unit is based around a group project between two individuals from a freshman biology honors and an AP Biology class. These two students will work together, either completely online or occasionally in person to create song music video, accompanying album cover and artwork, and various online advertisings of their album release that shows their understanding of cellular organelles. To show their progress throughout the process, the group must routinely publish their work online as is described below even if they work entirely in person.
To choose their partner, the students must set up a LinkedIn profile that describes what kind of skills they could bring to the project. They will complete a LinkedIn worksheet that describes their comfort level on some of the skills that will be necessary to complete this project. They will also describe potential issues that they might have that would relate to completing this project. For example, a student would say whether they have ever edited a video before or whether they have access to a video camera.
Students will routinely publish song lyrics, and other parts of their project, as they progress through the project onto Google+ to allow for other students in the class to view and comment on. Students can use the recommended sites that allow for comments or any other appropriate site that allows for these options, but must ultimately publish a link onto Google+. Students must provide feedback on other classmates work before the project is due, so students can react to these recommendations.
The song for this project must have a minimum of ten key terms that relate to the cell. Students can look to their notes, textbook, or online for cellular organelles such as the nucleus, ribosome, chloroplast, etc. Each key term must also be explained within the lyrical body. The song must have two distinct parts in that half of it will be written by the freshman student at the 9th grade level and the other “remix” edition is written by the AP biology student at the AP level. Both students will be working with the same ten key terms and the AP biology students lyrics must build upon the 9th graders lyrics. The group must publish “sneak peeks” of their lyrics as described below on Google+ and leave comments on other group lyrics. The final song must be published on YouTube (or some equivalent site) as an educational music video that helps explain the lyrics and linked to the class Google+ page. A mash up of educational pictures taken from the Instagram feed (see below) can be worked into the video but is not necessary.
Students are to routinely post pictures that are analogies to the structure and function of cell organelles. They must list what organelle the picture is an analogy of and briefly how it is. One sentence will suffice. For example, a picture of the principal’s office could be an analogy of the Nucleus since it gives directions on how to run the school. Students will end up posting and commenting on eight different cell analogies as is described in the instructions below. These pictures can be a useful educational inclusion for the music video as described above.
Students will culminate their project by posting their music video and album artwork onto a file sharing website and then post the links onto Google+.

Computer/tablet/phone with internet connection
Camera/video camera
Video editing software

Google Hangout
Some sort of website that can be used to publish text, pictures, and video that allows other to make comments on. The following websites are suggested but not required:
You might find this useful for recording your video:

Day 1
Students will be introduced to the project by hearing a live version of Mr. Meck’s amazing rendition of “100 Trillion cell army” to the tune of The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.” Such lyrics as “I’m in the nucleus, so everyone listen to me” and “B form DNA, read 5’ to 3’ by Okazaki,” will give examples of how to construct lyrics to help explain an organelle and also see the difference between honors and AP level lyrics. Students can also enjoy a recorded version here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2351610744154&set=vb.1066682130&type=3&theater
Understanding the basic form of structure and function of life in the cell allows students to better understand all aspects of anatomy and physiology in plants and animals. For example, muscle cells have higher amounts of mitochondria in it compared to a skin cell because it needs more energy. Or a leaf on a plant would have more chloroplast in it than the roots.
Students will be given a “set list” of directions that include the various objectives and grading rubric for the project. Students will create their LinkedIn profile and complete their “resume” worksheet. This resume will include a questionnaire that allows students to rate themselves on the different tools they need to complete the project. Students will also be able to add other information that they find pertinent to the project, for example, their musical skills (or lack thereof) or access to various technologies. Students must also sign up for a Google+ account, email their username to me, and add all of the students doing the project to a new circle. Post a link on Google+ for your LinkedIn profile.
Student Checklist external image placeholder?w=200&h=50
Become inspired by Mr. Meck’s rock opera
Sign up for Google+ and email Mr. Meck your username
Complete the LinkedIn worksheet, upload it, and post it on Google+
Add other classmates to your circle after receiving their names from Mr. Meck

Day 2-3
Students will be given time to choose their partner. Since they will be picking a partner from another class, students will be given time to post and reply on LinkedIn and/or Google+. After students have chosen their partner, they must post their group name and the names of the members on Google+. Students should start thinking of ideas for their project.
Decide who your partner is going to be by looking on LinkedIn
Post your group name and the members of your group on Google+
Start working on your project

Days 4-5
Students will start working on their song lyrics. Students can look to their textbook and notes or websites such as cellsalive.com. Students will be able to review examples from previous years on youtube.com or look to Mr. Meck’s example. Students will be allowed to use the music of their choosing and either provide their own music or take advantage of the instrumental versions of most songs found on youtube.com.
Two lines of their cell song must be posted on Google+ by the end of day 5. Students will be able to receive feedback from Mr. Meck and see the other kinds of lyrics and feedback other students are receiving. Students must also start posting pictures on Instagram (or an equivalent website) of pictures that they find to be analogous to the structure and function of cell organelles. Links to each picture must be posted on Google+. Each picture must be accompanied by a one line description of what the analogy is to and why they made that analogy. Students will be able to see examples from previous years and a few examples given by Mr. Meck. Students will also be able to use the feedback from Mr. Meck and their peers to refine their analogies as the project continues. Students must also start replying to students posting of pictures by choosing the analogy they thought was the best and why. These pictures can be used to start forming the artwork they will be using for their album.
When making comments on other students work, consider the one required comment the bare minimum. Other students, along with your group, will benefit from giving and receiving additional feedback. Be courteous, but don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism.
Post two lines of your cell song on Google+ by the end of day 5
Post a picture on Instagram with a link on Google+ and comment on another picture each day
Start work on your album cover

Days 6-7
Students must publish two additional lines of their cell song on Google+ and give feedback to another groups posting. Students can choose lyrics from any part of their song. The group must continue to post one analogy picture each day and comment on the picture that they felt was the best. Students should continue working on their album cover and thinking of ideas for their educational music video. Students can look to previous years for examples or view current pictures from other students groups for inspiration. The music video should be related to the song cell lyrics. For example, if singing about the nucleus, students could have a picture of the nucleus, or one of their analogies for the nucleus, or act out something completely new that has something to do with the structure or function of it. Most basic video editing software (including the free ones) allow for pictures to be superimposed over music. This would be the minimum, although completely sufficient, way to create the music video.
Post two lines of your cell song on Google+ and leave feedback on another groups lyrics
Post a picture on Instagram with a link on Google+ and comment on another each day
Continue working on your album cover and start thinking of your educational music video

Day 8-9
Students must upload a video to youtube.com that includes a description of their progress on the project. This progress should include the concrete examples you have already posted and the progress you have made that you haven’t posted. Include talking about your Instagram analogies, your album artwork, your song, and any feedback you have received. After uploading the video, the group must include a link on Google+. Students should continue to post pictures and make comments on Instagram.
Upload a video check in on youtube.com and leave a link on Google+
Post a picture on Instagram with a link on Google+ and comment on another each day

Days 10-11
Students must upload an example of four new lyrical lines that include two from the freshman student and two from the AP biology student. The AP biology lines must be describing the same cell organelles as the freshman’s but just in the detail accustomed to the AP level. Leave at least one comment on other groups lyrics. Students should post a picture of the progress they have made on creating their album cover onto Instagram along with a link to Google+. Students must continue to post other pictures onto Instagram and comments to other student’s links.
Post four lines of your cell song on Google+ and comment on others
Post a picture on Instagram with a link on Google+ and comment on another each day
Post a picture of your album on Instagram and put a link on Google+

Days 12-14
Students no longer have to post pictures to Instagram or make comments on others. Students should be finishing up their album cover, song lyrics, and music video. Students should post an additional four lines of lyrics that include two from the freshman and two from the AP biology student. Students should leave comments on at least one other group’s lyrics. Students can also post additional questions, comments, or requests for help if needed as they go to finish up their project.
Post four lines of your cell song on Google+ and leave comments on other groups lyrics
Need help? Reach out to our online community!
Home stretch - complete the finishing touches on your project!

Day 15
Students must upload their final music video to youtube.com and their album artwork to Instagram and then leave links on Google+. After everyone has posted – students can vote on their “cellular idol,” whichever music video they found to be their favorite.
Post final music video on youtube.com
Post final album artwork on Instagram
Leave links for both on Google+

|| Assignments
Poor job
Needs improvement
Great Job!
LinkedIn profile

This worksheet includes a questionnaire which will have the student rate themselves on varying tasks needed for this project.
Students will be able to evaluate themselves and start to consider what kind of partner they will want to choose for the project.
Students have not completed the LinkedIn worksheet or published online
Students did not finish, did not publish, were late, etc. for their LinkedIn profile
Students completed the LinkedIn profile worksheet and uploaded it on time
Group name on Google+
Students have failed to publish their group name along with their names
Students were late in publishing their group name and their names or forgot one or the other
Students have published their group name along with their names on Google+ on time
Sneak peek lyrics
Publishing these lyrics allows students to receive feedback from Mr. Meck and from their peers. In addition, students will be able to see multiple other examples from all the other groups. Although only being graded for participation at this point, students will be able to start molding their lyrics to ones that help explain the different cell parts in useful ways.
Students have not posted any lyrics or comments
Students have missed 1-3 postings or comments
Students have posted lyrics and made comments on other each of the four times
Cell analogies on Instagram
Publishing these pictures will help to start giving students ideas for creating meaningful lyrics that can allow them to relate cellular functions to different aspects of their lives.
They will also have the opportunity receive feedback from Mr. Meck and from their peers. In addition, students will be able to see multiple other examples from all the other groups. Although only being graded for participation at this point, students will be able to start putting together pictures that will be used for their album artwork.
Students have not posted any pictures or left any comments on Instagram
Students have missed 1-7 posting of pictures, explanations of pictures, or comments on other students pictures
Students have made all of the necessary postings and comments on Instagram and Google+
YouTube check in
Students will be able to gauge how far they have gotten in their project and compare it to their peers. Students will be able to pose questions to Mr. Meck or to other students as well.
Students have not done a YouTube check in
Students were late in their posting to YouTube or Google+ or did not discuss their progress or have not made much progress
Students have created and posted a YouTube video onto Google+ chronicling their work which includes doing at least the minimum amount assigned
Album artwork
This artwork will be culmination of some of the visual cues they have used to help them learn about the cell. These can be taken or inspired from the pictures the students have posted on Instagram.
Students have not created any album artwork
Student work is late and/or shows weak to little connection to their song lyrics and teaching cell organelles
Student album artwork is posted properly to Google+ and shows clear connection to their song lyrics and teaching cell organelles
Music Video
The music video aims to tie visual learning with auditory learning, and if the students choose, also kinesthetic. Either way, students will create a video that shows off the students understanding of the material in at least two ways. If students decide to go above and beyond in creating the video, they will have the benefit of adding an extra learning style and also an opportunity to win “cellular idol” which can be tied to extra credit points.

Students have not created a music video to accompany their cell song
Music Video is late
Music video shows a weakened connection to the song lyrics and/or doesn’t help explain the different parts of the cell
The music video shows a clear connection to the song lyrics and helps explain the concepts in question
Song Lyrics
After several postings of their lyrics on Google+ and receiving feedback from Mr. Meck and their peers, students will have the opportunity to showcase lyrics that exemplify their understanding of cellular organelles. The lyrics should be tied to their difficulty level (either honors or AP). Students should take into consideration the comments that students and Mr. Meck has made on their lyrics.
Students have not completed or posted any cell song lyrics
Song lyrics are missing, are late, are not to the appropriate grade level, do not properly explain the cellular organelle, or some combination of the previous problems.

Maximum of 3 points for each key term song lyric
Total of 20 song lyrics – 10 from freshman honors and ten from AP biology student
Students have completed all of the lyrics
The 10 AP bio lyrics build upon the 10 freshman lyrics
All the lyrics show a clear understanding of the cellular organelle being described

Accomodations for ELL
Students from an ELL background may have issues at first with some of the vocabulary that comes from the varying cellular organelles. This project employs different learning strategies that should help ELL students overcome this. First off, the Instagram part of this project adds a visual tool for ELL students that can help ease learning new terms. Also, writing and reading about the different analogies should help them relate an unknown word to more familiar vocabulary. In addition, the aspect of writing and performing the song can help them tie the vocabulary to a musical tune that they can relate to.

The rationale behind this unit plan was to create a project that could be done completely online in order to promote technology and the creation of an affinity space. Although affinity spaces can be done in person, it is much more likely to occur online (Bruns, 2008) (Duncan & Hayes, 2012). This project promotes this by having the group members come not only from two different classes and years but by having all requirements linked to online work. Although working completely online is highly encouraged, students do have the opportunity to work with their partner in person if they choose to do so. Although they are “forced” to do this project, unlike a true affinity space, the LinkedIn profile plays the role of linking together students who match up due to similar beliefs for this project.
Another aspect of this project is to test the student’s knowledge of the cell in a unique way that goes beyond the typical test (Gee, 2007). James Paul Gee and Elisabeth Hayes (2011) discuss several cases in which learners recall and can use information when it is asked in a format that they are interested in. If the teacher can drum up interest in having students create songs to help learn a topic, if it is not already there, students can come away with a deeper understanding of something they normally might not care about. This project is also set up so any teacher from any discipline could replace the focus on cells to nearly any topic. This gives any teacher the opportunity to integrate a lesson that is innovative and engaging to students.
This project also takes advantage of student feedback that can help mold and improve the overall project (Duncan and Hayes, 2012). Students will be able to see other students work and provide feedback through Google+. This will give both groups the opportunity to reflect upon and make the necessary changes to their project. Although students are required a minimal amount of posting and commenting, they can take advantage of the ability to post more if they choose to do so. This will help create an environment where students can comfortably give and receive feedback for their project (James Paul Gee, 2011).
With this project being based online, students are able to take advantage of not only receiving feedback and ideas from their fellow classmates, but from an infinite source of information from the World Wide Web. By putting the focus of this project online, students will have the opportunity to take advantage of this. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011) note that students can benefit by taking and testing out the massive amount of data on the internet. By allowing students to post parts of their projects online, and then changing them as they see fit, students can partake in the benefits that Thomas and Brown discussed. Using the internet as a useful tool will also foster the 21st century skills that teachers need to be encouraging (Knobel, 2013).
One of the advantages of the group aspect of this project is that students are able to participate in ways that they feel comfortable in doing so (Gee, 2011). Depending on the student’s interest and expertise, they can focus on certain aspects of the project as opposed to others. The LinkedIn profile will work to have students team up in ways that can accentuate their positives and mask their weaknesses.
This project aims to have students create an affinity space online that will help guide their learning as they create a unique song about the cell. Even if it falls short of this lofty goal, students will still gain experience in working with a partner from a different age and education level, experience on working mostly online, and also learn about the cell. The project is set up in such a way to promote various learning skills for the multitude of learners that would partake in this project. No matter the type of learner, this project will touch upon something they can take away from it.

Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, wikipedia, second life, and beyond: From production to produsage. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Ducan, S. C., & Hayes, E. (2012). Expanding the affinity space - an introduction. In E. R. Hayes
& S. C. Duncan (Eds.), Learning in video game affinity spaces (pp. 3-32). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. R. (2011). Language and learning in the digital age. New York, NY:

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing affinity spaces and game-based learning. In C.
Steinkuehler, K. Squire & S. Barab (Eds.), Games, learning, and society (pp. 129-153).
Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Knobel, M. (2013, April). Defining literacy as a social practice: implications for new literacies research and classroom practice. Presentation to the Doctoral Student Colloquium, Teacher's College, University of Columbia Doctoral student colloquium, New York, NY.
Shamburg, C. (2008). English language arts: Units for grades 9-12. Washington, DC:
International Society for Technology in Education.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. (pp. 1-37). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.