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Origami As A Memory Aid - How To Use A Paper Folding Technique To Assist In The Teaching Of Biology
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Origami As A Memory Aid - How to Use A Paper Folding Technique to Assist In the Teaching Of Biology

What do the ancient Japanese art of origami and the study of Biology have in common?

If your answer was limited to the beautiful swans which can be produced from a piece of paper, then I have a treat in store for you. The origami I used is certainly not as intricate as a swan but it does work effectively as a memory aid.

I have pondered different ways of teaching the three lines of defence against disease, partly because they can be learned superficially quite easily and partly because a capable student wants as in depth and understanding of the roles and relationships of lymphocytes. there is also the apocryphal tale of the student who when asked in an exam to name three different types of white blood cells wrote "the white, the off white and the bone". I'm sure there was no truth in the rumour that this was actually Richie Benaud's grandchild.

To try this particular trick, take a piece of A4 paper and orient it using portrait layout. Then fold the paper into three sections. Make the front section the flap which folds upwards.

The front flap represents the first line of defence. Write the word ‘Barriers’ on this section. Barriers include the skin and the mucous membranes. Add some of the characteristics of these physical surfaces such as salty, acidic, etc.

When you fold up this section, write the words ‘White Blood Cells’ at the top of the sheet (it will be on the underside of the section on Barriers. Both the second and third lines of defence involve white blood cells.

On the second flap (the one which will fold downwards), write ‘Phagocytes’. Phagocytes are part of the second line of defence. These are white blood cells which attack all foreign bodies. It is non-specific and often also involves an inflammatory response. You could also include some types of phagocytes, such as monocytes.

When you fold this section out, you will have the third line of defence. On the middle section write ‘Lymphocytes’. This is the specific immune response. It involves identifying the particular type of foreign body and producing a specific response. There are 2 types of lymphocytes, B-cells and T-cells. Memory cells are also produced as part of this response. The B-lymphocyte response is a chemical response involving the production of antibodies. Represent this as two groups braching off the central 'lymphocytes' heading.

The T-lymphocyte response is a biological response involving a number of different cells producing a coordinated response, like a Team.

The important thing with this exercise is that you should be able to progressively reveal the first, second and third lines of defence. Hence a pathogen must beat the first line to reach the second and so on.

Your memory guide is a basic outline. It is just one of a series of learning tools for students which can assist them to organise their knowledge, summarise a section of work or study for an exam. Such learning tools should be minimally structured, allowing students to add as much, or as little, information as they require. Providing students with open-ended activities encourages them to work at a level which best suits them. Setting individual targets helps the student push themselves if you think they are not reaching their potential.

This activity can be used to introduce the topic, so you can return to it and add more detail, or as a summary at the end of a topic, or both. Learning activities in science should be both fun and informative, allowing students a degree of self-expression and ownership of their learning experience.

Incorporating technology into your teaching, whether simple origami or more complex use of software and Web 2.0, gives students a greater range of choices from which they can select the most appropriate for a given task. Different learning tools for different schools better equips our students for 21st century workplaces.

I suppose two folds doesn't quite fulfil the traditionalist view of origami and that's OK. It isn't always what you do, it's the way that you do it. That's what gets results.


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