Why is this a good activity?
It is often difficult to communicate how the organization of individual cells can affect later function, particularly with regard to early embryogenesis and the organization of embryonic stem cells. This activity allows a simple way of visualizing these processes to all age groups from any educational background. The activity is also fully interactive and is relatively inexpensive.
Which age group is this activity aimed at:
Any age group but is particularly useful for younger audiences.
Ping-pong balls of at least two different colors and adhesive Velcro spots both hooks and loops.
Take a ping pong ball and stick 4 adhesive Velcro hook spots on opposing sides, around the circumference. Then stick 2 adhesive loop spots on the remaining, opposing sides. On a new pin-pong ball do the same but use 4 x loops and 2 hooks. Repeat this process as many times as desired so that there are an equal number of each type of ball. You can also mix in different colored balls to represent cells at differing stages of development.
You can use these to illustrate how individual cells are organized in early embryonic structures by allowing your audience to build a 4 or 8 cell structure themselves as you explain the concepts. These aids are also useful when explaining embryonic stem cell aggregate structures and also how at different stages of development groups of differing cells can be organized into specific locations (colored ping-pong balls).
You can use these as a visual aid to describe principles to older audiences and give them to younger children to both entertain but also convey basic principles such as cell adhesion and cell organization. Make a lot of these as they tend to go missing.
Also read Glen’s post about the Biology Builders stand at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, a great case study for science outreach at science festivals.