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Organelles in Concert

Modeling the Coordination of Cell Structures


Alexandra V. Tremblay
Department of Biology
University of North Georgia


This set of mini cases is designed to develop students’ understanding of cell structure compartmentalization, spatial arrangement, and organelle coordination. Each mini case consists of a scenario, a modeling activity involving roleplay, and a follow-up set of questions. These mini cases may be used in any combination, although it is most likely that an instructor will choose just one, depending on the topic of interest: protein synthesis and endomembrane transport system; photosynthesis and cellular respiration; or phagocytosis of Streptococcus through bulk transport. Through the process of modeling, students gain a better understanding of spatial arrangements, functions, and coordination of cell structures; they also are more likely to avoid the common misconception that organelles act as independent entities, when instead these structures perform as highly organized networks within the larger context of the cell. These mini cases were developed for an introductory biology course primarily taken by pre-health majors and are best implemented after students have illustrated a firm understanding of the four classes of macromolecules and the functional intricacies of phospholipid bilayers.


  • Introduce the major functions of each cell structure or organelle.
  • Develop understanding of how the spatial arrangement of cell structures and organelles contributes to carrying out cellular functions.
  • Deconstruct common misconceptions about cell structure and organelle function.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of how cell structures and organelles function in concert (in contrast to organelles functioning independently).


Cell structures; organelles; endomembrane system; photosynthesis; respiration; protein synthesis; modeling; SHH; Sonic hedgehog; phagocytosis; metabolism;

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division


PDF, Word

Type / Methods

Demonstration, Mini-Case, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Science (General)  |   Cell Biology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

Below is the “Cell Structure and Function Table” that students should complete for homework prior to starting any of the mini cases.

  cellular_modeling_sup.docx (~32 KB)

Answer Key

Answer keys for the cases in our collection are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.