Some aspects of middle-school student understanding should be noted. This period of development in youth lends itself to human biology. Middle-school students can develop the understanding that the body has organs that function together to maintain life. Teachers should introduce the general idea of structure-function in the context of human organ systems working together. Other, more specific and concrete examples, such as the hand, can be used to develop a specific understanding of structure-function in living systems. By middle-school, most students know about the basic process of sexual reproduction in humans. However, the student might have misconceptions about the role of sperm and eggs and about the sexual reproduction of flowering plants. Concerning heredity, younger middle-school students tend to focus on observable traits, and older students have some understanding that genetic material carries information.

Students understand ecosystems and the interactions between organisms and environments well enough by this stage to introduce ideas about nutrition and energy flow, although some students might be confused by charts and flow diagrams. If asked about common ecological concepts, such as community and competition between organisms, teachers are likely to hear responses based on everyday experiences rather than scientific explanations. Teachers should use the students' understanding as a basis to develop the scientific understanding.

Understanding adaptation can be particularly troublesome at this level. Many students think adaptation means that individuals change in major ways in response to environmental changes (that is, if the environment changes, individual organisms deliberately adapt).

Guide to the Content Standard

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include

STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION IN LIVING SYSTEMS

  • Living systems at all levels of organization demonstrate the complementary nature of structure and function. Important levels of organization for structure and function include cells, organs, tissues, organ systems, whole organisms, and ecosystems.

  • All organisms are composed of cells—the fundamental unit of life. Most organisms are single cells; other organisms, including humans, are multicellular.

  • Cells carry on the many functions needed to sustain life. They grow and divide, thereby producing more cells. This requires that they take in nutrients, which they use to provide energy for the work that cells do and to make the materials that a cell or an organism needs.

  • Specialized cells perform specialized functions in multicellular organisms. Groups of specialized cells cooperate to form a tissue, such as a muscle. Different tissues are in turn grouped together to form larger functional units, called organs. Each type of cell, tissue, and organ has a distinct structure and set of functions that serve the organism as a whole.

  • The human organism has systems for digestion, respiration, reproduction, circulation, excretion, movement, control, and coordination, and for protection



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