Outline of unit

The link between structure and function is an important biological concept. The basic structure of a cell, including the various organelles that make it up, can be linked back to what that cell does. Plant and animal cells have many functions in common and therefore have many structures in common. There are differences though. Many plant cells must photosynthesise in order to obtain energy. They also do not have bones (made of bone cells) and so have developed another way to support themselves.

In this unit students will determine what a cell is, and examine the structures all cells have in common. They will compare a variety of plant, fungal and animal cells, and link their different structures to their function. To do this, students will learn to use a microscope, prepare a wet mount of an onion slide, use a stain and draw a scientific diagram of the cells they observe. Students will also develop knowledge of different scientists that use microscopes to examine cells in their work, and debate the ethical issues surrounding the use of stem cells in research.

Australian Curriculum content descriptions

Science Understanding

Biological sciences

Cells are the basic units of living things and have specialised structures and functions (ACSSU149

Science as a Human Endeavour

Nature and development of science

Scientific knowledge changes as new evidence becomes available, and some scientific discoveries have significantly changed people’s understanding of the world (ACSHE134

Science knowledge can develop through collaboration and connecting ideas across the disciplines of science (ACSHE226

Use and influence of science

Science and technology contribute to finding solutions to a range of contemporary issues; these solutions may impact on other areas of society and involve ethical considerations (ACSHE135

People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced the development of practices in areas of human activity (ACSHE136)

Science Inquiry Skills

Planning and conducting

Collaboratively and individually plan and conduct a range of investigation types, including fieldwork and experiments, ensuring safety and ethical guidelines are followed (ACSIS140

Processing and analysing data and information

Construct and use a range of representations, including graphs, keys and models to represent and analyse patterns or relationships, including using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS144

Summarise data, from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and use scientific understanding to identify relationships and draw conclusions (ACSIS145


Communicate ideas, findings and solutions to problems using scientific language and representations using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS148

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Achievement standard

This lesson sequence provides opportunities to gather information about students’ achievement of specific components in the standards (which are bolded in the statements below).

By the end of Year 8, students compare physical and chemical changes and use the particle model to explain and predict the properties and behaviours of substances. They identify different forms of energy and describe how energy transfers and transformations cause change in simple systems. They compare processes of rock formation, including the time scales involved. They analyse the relationship between structure and function at cell, organ and body system levels. Students examine the different science knowledge used in occupations. They explain how evidence has led to an improved understanding of a scientific idea and describe situations in which scientists collaborated to generate solutions to contemporary problems.
Students identify and construct questions and problems that they can investigate scientifically. They consider safety and ethics when planning investigations, including designing field or experimental methods. They identify variables to be changed, measured and controlled. Students construct representations of their data to reveal and analyse patterns and trends, and use these when justifying their conclusions. They explain how modifications to methods could improve the quality of their data and apply their own scientific knowledge and investigation findings to evaluate claims made by others. They use appropriate language and representations to communicate science ideas, methods and findings in a range of text types.

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Cardiomyocytes, aboreus, CC BY-NC 2.0; Magnolia petal cells, kaibara87, CC BY 2.0; Elodea, green.thumbs, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Additional information for teachers


Background information (PDF, 361 KB)

Safety advice (PDF, 321 KB)

Materials and equipment (PDF, 415 KB)


Developing programs in science for gifted and talented students 
(Australian Science Innovations)