EDISON, NJ-- Sixth-grade students at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison combined creativity, collaboration and communication in their presentations of cell models this week.

"Ninth grade students come back to Middle School to tell me how they still remember the organelles of the cell because of their cell project back in sixth grade," admits Andrea Barnett, Science Department Co-Chair and Middle School teacher. “For the project the students are asked to prepare a model plant cell but to use items for the organelles that resemble the function of that cell part, rather than focus on its appearance. So how do we rethink a tried and true group project for Covid-19 times?”

Students brought the group work back to the school where their interactions could be monitored. Students gathered in zoom breakout rooms, either in school or remotely, to discuss, write and plan their projects. Each member brought in or sent in their parts, while one member in the group was designated as the "compiler" to put the pieces together in their proper places within the model.

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Once again, many models came prepared with the AA battery representing the "mighty" mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.  It's hard to beat such a perfect interpretation as it also simply looks like a small rod-shaped organelle that provides the cell with energy. And the tried and true UPS truck representing the Golgi body that ships packages (of proteins) to various parts of the cell and solar panel that represents the chloroplast gathering energy to make food for the cell were prevalent. 

However, this year again brought some new creative ideas as well. There were doors and sponges to represent the semi-permeable natures of the cell membrane, salt to represent the preparation of proteins by the ribosomes, a warehouse to represent a vacuole, and speech bubbles with written commands or Javascript that represented the chromatin. Our students were also clearly influenced by the events in the news from the previous month. In one project the nucleus was represented by the Capitol building surrounded by a nuclear membrane made up of police and guardsmen. 

"Clearly, allowing creative work, even in the sciences, gives students opportunities to express themselves,” Mrs. Barnett said.

The Wardlaw+Hartridge School (1295 Inman Ave., N. Edison) is Central Jersey’s premier PreK-12 independent school. The campus is located near the Scotch Plains border and just five miles from downtown Westfield. It is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational day school that prepares students to lead and succeed in a world of global interconnection. Wardlaw+Hartridge provides an educational atmosphere characterized by academic challenge, support for individual excellence, diversity, and a familial sense of community. To take a virtual tour of the school, visit www.whschool.org/admission/take-a-virtual-tour.