Academic journal article Education Research International

Teaching Cell Biology in Primary Schools

Academic journal article Education Research International

Teaching Cell Biology in Primary Schools

Article excerpt

Francele de Abreu Carlan 1 and Lenira Maria Nunes Sepel 1,2 and Elgion Lucio Silva Loreto 1,3

Academic Editor:John C. K. Lee

1, PPG Educação em Ciências Quimica da Vida e Saúde, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Predio 13-C, Campus Camobi, 7105-970 Santa Maria, RS, Brazil
2, Departamento de Biologia e PPG Educação em Ciências Quimica da Vida e Saúde, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Predio 16-B, Campus Camobi, 97105-970 Santa Maria, RS, Brazil
3, Departamento de Bioquimica e Biologia Molecular e PPG Educação em Ciências Quimica da Vida e Saúde, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Predio 13, Campus Camobi, 97105-970 Santa Maria, RS, Brazil

Received 30 June 2014; Revised 2 November 2014; Accepted 13 November 2014; 20 November 2014

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

Cell theory is a unifying concept in all domains of biology. The idea that all living beings are formed of one or more cells and that all new cells develop from preexisting ones completely changed the way humans understood the living world, its constitution, and its functioning. Although the cells were first described by Robert Hooke in 1665, understanding that cells are the morphological and functional unit of living things took 200 years to be achieved. The cell theory was only developed between 1840 and 1855 by Theodor Schwann, Matthias Schleiden, Robert Remak, and Rudolf Virchow [1]. Furthermore, the extraordinary growth of knowledge in molecular and cellular biology over the past decade has made a basic comprehension of cell biology fundamental to scientific literacy. The central concepts of cell biology allow us to manage available information effectively and to make better decisions in our everyday life as regards health, disease prevention and treatment, nutrition, and reproduction. These notions also permit a broader understanding of the world and the ecological relationship between life forms and their roles in nature.

Considering the importance of these basic biological concepts, teaching cell biology in elementary schools is a necessary task but also a great challenge. Students in both elementary and high school classrooms experience difficulty in understanding basic knowledge about cells. Even after students have completed mandatory levels of schooling, their knowledge remains fragmentary and inadequately integrated on the level of cells and organisms [2-4]. The concepts of cell biology are abstract, and the structures involved are microscopic, which creates an obstacle in the process of effective learning. For example, using their senses, students cannot directly perceive metabolic, biochemical, or biophysical processes. These abstract subjects are typically taught in lecture classes, where students are required to memorize information for the purpose of examinations. In many cases, specific declarative knowledge is satisfactory for the usual evaluation process at school. However, difficulties arise when students are asked to explain the functional relation between cellular processes and the functions of more complex multicellular organisms [5, 6]. If the questions posed require students to associate concepts or apply them to new situations, the students often do not perform as well.

The astonishing developments in molecular and cellular biology over the past decade have led to a crisis of "how much to teach" in schools [5]. The great amount of content to be covered brings as solution the anticipation of some topics for the elementary school. Consequently, the curriculum of elementary schools is now replete with concepts that were previously addressed in high schools. In the case of cell biology, for example, subcellular structures and the physiological cellular process described in molecular approaches to biology are currently taught in elementary schools [5]. …

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