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AoS 1 How organisms function - cells in action and functioning organisms

Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels
Unit 1 — How do living things stay alive?


Part 1: Cells Alive - Cells are the smallest and simplest functional units of all living organisms. There are two major types of cells: prokaryotic (nucleus absent) and eukaryotic (nucleus present). Prokaryotic cells are relatively small and simple in their structure – they don’t have membrane bound organelles and therefore lack a sophisticated internal structure. Eukaryotic cells are relatively larger and more sophisticated than prokaryotic cells and contain membrane bound organelles including a nucleus, mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum. Living things can exist as unicellular or multicellular organisms, or in colonies (unicellular organisms which are capable of living independently but have evolved to live as a group).

Part 2: Functioning Organisms - Micropropagation (also known as tissue culture) is a technique used to grow plants either from seed, soft tissue cuttings or roots. Rather than using a potting medium to grow a plant, with micropropagation plants are grown in nutrient agar in a sterile and controlled environment. The nutrient agar comprises minerals, vitamins, hormones to promote shoot and root growth, amino acids, sugars and agar (offers support for the plant tissue).

Prior Knowledge

It is recommended that students have studied the various cellular organelles.

Learning Intentions

In this program student’s will:

  • Become adept at using a compound stereo microscope to investigate unicellular and multicellular organisms
  • Observe the effect of plasmolysis on elodea cells
  • Learn how to set up micropropagation


  • Online review of organelle functions
  • Microscope investigation of prepared prokaryote slide
  • Preparation and study of plasmolysis in elodea leaves
  • Preparation and study of various protist slides
  • Set up tissue culture of Twiggy Daisy Bush and see the effects of altering pH, nutrients and sucrose

VCE links

  • Cells as the basic structural feature of life on Earth, including the distinction between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  • The ultrastructure of plant and animal cells in terms of their organelles and identification of these organelles using the light microscope
  • The characteristics of the plasma membrane as a semi-permeable boundary between the internal and external environments of a cell
  • A study of one selected vascular plant with reference to how its cells are specialised and organised (cells into tissues, and tissues into organs) for the intake, movement and loss of water from the plant