Strand III
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Life Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand III
Content Standard 1
All students will apply an understanding of cells to the functioning of multi-cellular organisms; and explain how cells grow, develop, and reproduce. (Cells)


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1
Middle School


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1/Middle School
Benchmark 2
Explain why and how selected specialized cells are needed by plants and animals.

Benchmark Clarification

Plants and animals are made of specialized cells that make up different tissues, organs, and organ systems. Each organ or organ system is made of specialized cells that carry out the functions of that organ or system.

Examples of roles that specialized cells play:

  • Reproduction: Egg and sperm cells carry instructions for creating a new organism
  • Transport: Root and stem cells transport water, minerals, and food
  • Disease-fighting: White blood cells fight disease
  • Photosynthesis: Occurs in plant cells
  • Movement: Muscles and bones are specialized for movement and support

Students will:

  • Explain the roles of specialized cells

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Key Concept
Specialized functions of cells:

  • reproduction
  • photosynthesis
  • transport
  • movement
  • disease-fighting

See Systems and processes in cells (SCI.III.2.MS.4).


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Real World Context
Specialized animal cells:

  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells
  • muscle cells
  • bone cells
  • nerve cells
  • egg/sperm cells

Specialized plant cells:

  • root cells
  • leaf cells
  • stem cells


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: How are cells adapted to grow, develop, and reproduce?

Focus Question: Why are specialized cells needed by plants and animals?

Working in small groups, students will examine a common small plant, such as a marigold. Looking at the plant, students will draw the entire plant and label the three basic organs (leaf, stem, and roots). Next to each organ, the students will:

  • Describe the function or purpose of each part
  • Predict and draw what the cells might look like in each part

Students will continue investigating plant cells by:

  • Collecting actual cell samples
  • Examining cell samples to determine their functions
  • Analyzing the similarities and differences between their predicted and actual drawings

Students will also use a similar process to expand their knowledge to include animal cells by:

  • Researching ways cells are specialized in animals and why animals also have a need for specialized cells
  • Selecting one specialized cell and preparing a presentation for the class to explain its structure and function

Constructing: (SCI I.1.MS.1), (SCI.I.1.MS.3), (SCI.I.1.MS.5).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.MS.1).


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1/Middle School/Benchmark 2
Assessment Example

Students will select an organism and one of its specialized cells to research. They will prepare a summary of their research, including information about its structure (visual representation) and function (written summary) that could be used on a class web site.

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Accuracy of visual representation

Shows a sketchy visual of a cell.

Displays a visual of a cell structure.

Designs an accurate visual of specialized cells.

Designs a detailed, comprehensive visual(s) of several specialized cells.

Completeness of description

Provides a vague description of cell function.

Describes briefly the cell’s function.

Describes the function(s) accurately of the specialized cell.

Describes in detail the function(s) of several specialized cells.

Correctness of format

Explains with inappropriate vocabulary or grammar.

Explains with partially correct vocabulary and grammar.

Explains with appropriate vocabulary and grammar.

Explains with extended vocabulary and exceptional grammar.


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 1/Middle School/Benchmark 2


The Budding Botanist. AIMS.

GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds.

The Lives of Plants. NEW DIRECTIONS UNIT.

“Looking Inside an Onion.” Microworlds.

Magnificent Micro-world Adventures. AIMS.

Ruef, Kerry. The Private Eye. The Private Eye Project, 1998.