How Do Cells Reproduce?

All living things reproduce, including cells – but how? Capture the miracle of life in a science journal


Key Staff

Classroom teacher; Assistance from art teacher would be useful

Key Skills

Developing Arts Literacies: Understanding Genres
Making Art: Producing, Executing and Performing


This activity illustrates the process of mitosis, or cell division, in yeast. Cells carry on the many functions needed to sustain life. The most important of these functions is the ability to reproduce. Students will investigate the process of mitosis by observing yeast cells. They will compare the growth of yeast cells in warm vs. cold water, and will hypothesize as to which environment would be more conducive to cellular growth. Students will write their hypotheses and gather data in a science journal, which will also include drawings, graphs, and words. Students will explore scientific drawing as a means of communicating ideas and information, and discuss opportunities that exist in the field of scientific illustration.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Grow yeast and observe the results through a microscope
  • Describe through drawings and words what they observe in a science journal
  • Conduct an experiment that compares the growth of yeast cells in warm and cold water
  • Quantify the results of their experiments
  • Learn about the career of scientific illustration

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discussion
  • Lab Procedures
  • Research

Assessment Type

Informal Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Small Group
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers need a clear understanding of reproduction at the cellular level.

Teachers should also be familiar with the career of scientific illustration.

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Students need to understand reproduction among plants and animals.
  • Students should know the basics of the scientific method, and have some experience with conducting experiments.
  • Students need to be familiar with the basics of using a microscope and safe usage of microscopes, including slide preparation.

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Kitchen


  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


Workstations should be set up in advance with the following supplies (per group or pair):

  • A package of dry yeast
  • Two jelly jars
  • Masking tape and markers for labeling jars
  • Sugar
  • Dry measuring cup
  • Eye droppers
  • Warm and cold water source
  • Microscope (450x or better)

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Tell students that they will need to convey information through sketches and charts as part of an experiment they will be conducting on yeast cells. Discuss with students the fact that in science, drawing is used to communicate ideas and information. In order for others to interpret the information correctly, a scientific drawing must be highly detailed, accurate, appropriately scaled and colored, and clearly labeled. Scientific drawing requires that students create an accurate, true reflection of the phenomenon or object being observed.

2. Ask students to practice drawing with accuracy by sketching a part of a hand. If hand lenses are available, distribute them to students or pairs of students. Ask students to look closely at one part of their hand (or their partner’s hand), such as the knuckle or fingernail. Have students sketch what they see, with as much detail and accuracy as possible. When finished, allow students to share and discuss their sketches, talking about techniques they used and any difficulties they encountered.

3. Discuss how this process of drawing is different from other kinds of drawing students have experienced: cartooning, doodling, illustration of stories, etc. For examples of scientific illustrations and the techniques employed to create them, have students go to the New York Public Library’s exhibit, Seeing is Believing: 700 Years of Scientific and Medical Illustration Give students time to explore the site. Following this experience, make a list as a class of the characteristics of scientific illustration. If the class has experienced other types of drawing together, you might choose to create a Venn diagram comparing the experiences.

Build Knowledge

1. Discuss reproduction with students. Lead a discussion on the essential functions of living organisms (growth, reproduction, response to stimuli, movement, nutrition, excretion, respiration). Review reproduction among plants or animals. Discuss what is necessary for reproduction to be possible, leading students to understand that the other functions of living organisms are required for reproduction.

2. Break the class into small groups or pairs. Assign each small group or pair of students to a workstation set up in advance with the supplies listed above.

3. Instruct each group to make a sugar solution for the yeast. Have the instructions on the board or on each table. You may also model the steps in front of the class. Fill each jelly jar with one cup of warm tap water, and dissolve 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar into the water, creating a solution. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of yeast into the sugar solution. Stir gently.

4. Have the students make slides of the solution. It is a good idea to model this procedure as you explain the steps. Using an eyedropper, place a few drops of the solution on a clean slide. Cover the drops with a cover slip and place the slides under a microscope. The students may need help focusing the microscope. Begin viewing under a low magnification and move to high. Once the yeast cells become visible, the students should describe with words and draw what they see in their science journals. The students should also count the number of cells they see and jot that number down in their journals.

5. Cover and label the jars of solution. Have each group or pair label their jelly jars with their names and the word “cold” or “warm” using markers and masking tape. Store the “cold” solution in a refrigerator and the “warm” solution in a warm place, such as an incubator or inside a stove set on low. The temperature in the warm place should be set between 98 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Let all of the solutions sit for 24-48 hours.

6. Have each group write a hypothesis predicting which jar of yeast will yield more buds (new cells) - the yeast stored in the refrigerator or the yeast stored in the warm place. The students must state the reasons for their hypotheses.


1. Have students examine their solutions. After 24-48 hours, set up the students' tables with their labeled yeast solutions, four slides, four slide covers, microscopes and the students' science journals. Have each group examine the cold and warm samples under a microscope.

2. Have students gather, tabulate, draw, analyze and compare their data. Each student should draw and record information in his or her individual science journal. Remind students of their drawings in Step 1, and encourage the same level of detail and accuracy. Pairs or small groups should then discuss whether the results confirm or disconfirm their hypotheses, and draw conclusions about their data. The students should share their drawings from their science journals with the group.

3. Instruct students to make charts that effectively relate their data and conclusions to their target audience: the class as a whole. Encourage students to use their drawings in their charts. Encourage groups to try out different ideas, so the students can see a variety of ways to communicate similar information. The group’s charts should be clear and concise as well as aesthetically pleasing.


1. Have each group present the results of their experiment. Ask students to take 3 minutes to present their results, using their charts. The group’s presentation should incorporate the answers to the following questions:

  • What was their original hypothesis?
  • Was the hypothesis correct?
  • How did the two samples compare?

2. Discuss the experimental results. Go over the results of the experiments. In general, groups should have very similar results; if there are any surprises, discuss possible reasons for the differing results (for example, excessively hot water might kill yeast during creation of the solution), and consider what further experiments could be made to test the hypotheses developed in the discussion. If the results are all essentially alike, you might keep interest high by graphing the numeric results (the numbers of cells) as students report. Draw a conclusion, as a class, about the effects of heat on reproduction in yeast.

3. Discuss the visual displays. Once the results of the experiment are clear, discuss the various ways that students used visual representations of their observations to convey information. Students’ charts should be posted and critiqued. Some points to consider:

  • Varying degrees of detail and accuracy
  • Varying levels of clarity of information
  • Different shapes and colors
  • Overall layouts of various charts
  • Use of left-to-right or top-to-bottom orientation to show a process
  • Different means of labeling drawings
  • Use of graphic organizers or other helps to interpret data
  • Use of design elements to make a visually pleasing chart
  • Distracting effect of excessive decoration

4. Discuss the career of scientific illustration. Point out that there are many careers that bring together the arts and other disciplines. One field that brings together art and science is scientific illustration. This field requires that an artist possess not only strong artistic skills, but also a high attention to detail, the ability to visualize and interpret information, and the ability to calculate and draw images to scale. Discuss some of the techniques required for accurate scientific illustration, as well as ways in which these drawings would be useful to scientists and to the public at large. Some points to consider in the discussion:

  • What role has scientific illustration had in transmitting knowledge throughout history?
  • What role has it played in recording changes in scientific understanding over time?
  • What role does creativity play in scientific illustration?
  • Though the focus in scientific illustration is on the accurate visual depiction of an object or phenomenon, is there any interpretation made by the artist?
  • Is there any art that is truly objective, or is all art subjective to some extent?
  • Much scientific illustration involves charts, graphs, maps, and other non-representational images. Are these less creative than pictures of objects? Do they require different skills?
  • How much scientific background would a scientific illustrator need?


Assess the student's performance using the Assessment Rubric and the Mitosis Lab Experiment Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

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National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Art

Grade 5-8 Visual Arts Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Grade 5-8 Visual Arts Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

National Standards in Other Subjects

Math Standard 6: Understands and applies basic and advanced concepts of statistics and data analysis

Math Standard 5: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of geometry



Rebecca Haden

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