Category Archives: Developmental Biology

Why You Should Teach Developmental Biology (and How to Do It!)
origami chicken

Image by RangerRick via Flickr

Developmental Biology is the study of how a single cell changes into a complex plant or animal.  Although many K-12 students will observe plants growing from seeds or have an animal in their classroom that goes through its life cycle under supervision of the students, developmental biology isn’t typically a subject that K-12 classrooms realize they are studying. Yet the study of development can address many of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) for science content, such as:

  • Science as Inquiry:
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (K-12)
    • Understandings about scientific inquiry (K-12)
    • Unifying Concepts and Processes:
      • Evidence, models, and explanation (K-12)
      • Form and function (K-12)
      • Systems, order, and organization (K-12)
  • Life Science:
    •  Reproduction and heredity (5-8)
    • Structure and function in living systems (5-8)
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives:
    • Science and technology in local, national and global challenges (9-12)

Developmental biology is full of beautiful images of embryos, and is of interest to most students because it relates to their wonder about plants and animals, new brothers and sisters, and their own bodies.

One of the Archive resources that could be used with middle and high-school students who are incubating chick eggs in their biology classroom is the Origami Embryo Demo Movie. This resource shows how to fold paper to change a flat and simple embryonic disc into a complex, 3D body structure that humans, chickens, and all vertebrates share. It models morphogenesis, the process by which body structure arises during egg incubation for their chicks, and during the first few months of pregnancy for a human fetus. The folding exercise, which students can do themselves, is paired with photos and diagrams of body tissues showing the relationship between their paper folding and real chick embryos.  The exercise takes red, pink and yellow colored printer paper, a stapler, tape and a pencil or other rod, and so it pretty low budget. It wasn’t made with K-12 students specifically in mind, so some of the terms may be beyond what those students are learning.  The general principles are sound even without those terms. Are you ready to get started? Here are some resources to help you:

Origami Embryo Resources:

So, what do you think? Are you ready to give Origami Embryo and Developmental Biology a try in your classroom?