Understanding the basic aspects of cellular reproduction can be one of the most enlightening and foundational lessons you can help your child learn. It can be fun and interesting for both of you! Here are four of the most important features of cellular processes you can impart to your child.
Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells
All living things are made up of one or more cells. Prokaryotic cells are found in simple, single-celled organisms, and have a tough outer wall. Eukaryotic cells make up all multi-celled organisms. These are soft, membrane-bound cells that contain “organelles”, which may be considered as cell organs. One type of organelle is mitochondria, which produce energy. The membrane is permeable, and various substances, hormones, and chemicals may “dock” with the cell through it.
Mitosis is the means by which cells reproduce themselves, transmitting copies of genetic information known as DNA, which is made up of chromosomes. These bits of information are coded with all the specifications needed to create more of a life form or an aspect of that life form. This type of division can be found in all specialized tissue cells—from the simplest life to the most complex.
The Cell Cycle
Mitosis can be broken down into a cycle with five steps or Phases:
• G1—a cell stores up energy needed for division
• S—DNA within the cell nucleus is copied
• G2—a gap between the conclusion of DNA copying and actual division
• M—cell division via mitosis takes place
• Cytokinesis—the cell membrane pinches inward and the cell divides. In botanical cells, a cell plate is formed at this phase to divide the parent and new cells. A microscope can be used to observe this with tissue thin sections of plant or animal material.
Meiosis and Binary Fission
Meiosis is a process similar to Mitosis that occurs in sexual reproduction. Here, diploid cells divide to become haploid gametes. The process of division in a fertilized ovum is an excellent example of meiosis. Asexual reproduction, such as may be observed in bacteria and other simple or single-celled organisms involves binary fission. Here, a bacterium will “bud” exact copies of itself. You can actually observe this process with the aid of a binocular stereo microscope, glass slides, and some culturing aids.
Studying cell structure and reproduction can be a fun way to connect with your child while you introduce them to the wonders of the natural world. Actually observing cells, their reproduction, and their makeup can be fun for you too. You’re never too old to participate in the creation of knowledge.