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Enzyme Action: Flip Books for Science Processes

Mark Porter
Mira Loma High School
4000 Edison St.
Sacramento, CA

with the help of:
Robert Nielsen
San Juan High School
Fair Oaks, CA

Type of Activity :
Student centered

Target audience :
Can be adapted for:
Biology, Life Science or Integrated Science
Sheltered (ESL) classes
Grades 7-12

Background information:
This project can be used to teach many different science processes. I have personally used it to teach enzyme activity and mitosis, but it could be used for meiosis, transcription/translation, active transport, or other biological process. It is very helpful if the teacher spends the time to make one beforehand, or at least have a professionally made one handy for demonstration.

Student requirements :
Paper, scissors, colored pens or pencils, patience, and an active imagination.

Project description:

Students design and produce a small "movie" of a biological process (enzyme activity is described). Students design a flip-book (many pages of drawings which, when flipped, move like a motion picture) which demonstrates one of the theories of enzyme activity. Students choose a theory such as induced fit, positive or negative regulators etc., and then using their creativity find a humorous or artistic interpretation to demonstrate the principle. Students produce a product that they are proud of, they actually learn and absorb the process, and evaluation is enjoyable as well.

Some previous discussion of proteins, protein structure, and enzyme theory in general is necessary. Explain to the students that they will be making a movie showing how an enzyme works. Demonstrate a previously prepared flip-book so they can see that you do not need a camera to make a film. I usually discuss how animated films are made, how many pictures it takes to make one second of film (27), and so on. Since we have already discussed the different theories of enzyme action, such as lock and key, induced fit, positive and negative regulators or inhibitors, they understand enzymes somewhat. I ask them to choose one theory to demonstrate with a flip-book. Then I tell them that enzymes are SO SMALL that we REALLY don't know EXACTLY what they look like (a lie, and they know it), so their enzymes and substrates could look like practically anything. For instance, an enzyme could look like a toaster, and two pieces of bread (substrates) could enter, and when they leave they look like a sandwich (product). Or the substrates could be two halves of a basketball, and as they pass through a hoop (enzyme) they are put together into a whole ball (product). Then the "wheels start turning" and the students actually become competitive, each trying to out do the other.

I have seen some incredibly imaginative efforts. Students can use their hobbies as inspiration, which then adds further incentive. Media used can vary quite a bit, from paper stapled together to sticky notepads. One student used 3" X 5" cards and bolted them together! Each flip book should state the theory demonstrated, have labels for all the major "players" in the film at least once, and no matter how creative they become, each book must be scientifically accurate.

I give the majority of the points for scientific accuracy (70%), and the rest of the points are creativity, overall design, and "degree of difficulty". Just like an Olympic diver gets more points for a difficult dive than an easy one, I give more points for a flip book demonstrating positive regulators than the lock and key theory.

I use a camcorder in my classroom on a daily basis, and I offer extra points for students to come use it to make an actual film of their flip book. I have used the enzyme approach in biology, and flip books of mitosis in life science classes with very positive results, both in student reaction and test performance afterwards. I can see how this project could also be used to show transcription/translation, transport across cell membranes, or any concept dealing with biological processes.

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