Resource Image Idea Bank: Demonstrating the Self-Assembly of the Cell Membrane

by: Gary Gaulin
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Type of Resource: Journal Article
Average Rating: Rating
 based on 2 reviews
Publication Title: The Science Teacher
Publication Date: 10/1/2007
Grade Level: High School


Although the cell membrane is a complex structure, its basic form, and the self-organizing behavior of the molecules that produce it, can be easily simulated in a high school science classroom. One such simulation, described in this article, uses oil, water, and the cell membrane-forming molecules (phospholipids) of egg yolk. The demonstration allows students to observe the self-assembly of phospholipid membranes around oil and water droplets, which shows how easily polar forces help construct then hold together the cell membranes in living organisms.

Ideas For Use


Additional Info

Science Discipline: (mouse over for full classification)
Cellular structures
Intended User Role:Curriculum Supervisor, High-School Educator, Teacher
Educational Issues:Classroom management, Curriculum, Inquiry learning, Instructional materials, Teacher content knowledge, Teacher preparation, Teaching strategies


Resource Format:
Size: KB
Installation Remarks:

National Standards Correlation

This resource has 5 correlations with the National Standards.  

This resource has 5 correlations with the National Standards.  

  • Life Science
    • The cell
      • Every cell is surrounded by a membrane that separates it from the outside world. (9-12)
      • Inside the cell is a concentrated mixture of thousands of different molecules which form a variety of specialized structures that carry out such cell functions as energy production, transport of molecules, waste disposal, synthesis of new molecules, and the storage of genetic material. (9-12)
  • Science as Inquiry
    • Understandings about scientific inquiry
      • Scientists develop explanations using observations (evidence) and what they already know about the world (scientific knowledge). Good explanations are based on evidence from investigations. (K-4)
  • Teaching Standards
    • Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers
      • Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas.
    • Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry.
      • Model and emphasize the skills, attitudes, and values of scientific inquiry.

State Standards Correlation

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User Reviews

A Simple Effective Demo
  Adah (San Antonio, TX) on October 28, 2011
  This article describes a demo that uses a chicken egg yolk to understand the self-assembly of a cell. All steps of this demo are presented with simple and effective illustrations also included so students can get a better understanding of the concept.

Great Demonstration to use in Classroom
  Katie Vaughn on May 5, 2015
  This article helps future educators see how one can help young students see structures that cannot be visualized easily. The egg yolk demonstration is a great tool to use in the classroom with explicit, step-by-step directions and it would be easy to implement in the classroom. This article explains how the cell membrane functions with the polarity of the phospholipids and demonstrates this idea using the egg yolk demonstration. This demonstration would be great in the classroom to help students see the function of cell membranes and to see how the cell interacts with other substances.