Adult Ed

Cancer: A Crisis of the Cells

Overview | Activities

Introductory Activities | Learning Activities | Culminating Activity
Cross-curricular Extensions |

Introductory Activities - Journal writing and reflection

  1. How has cancer had an impact on your life? In your journal or composition book, spend a few minutes reflecting on your life and the lives of friends and family. Think about someone you know who has been affected by cancer. Write about it using this list of prompts as potential starting points for your reflection:

    • Who is the person that has been affected? How do you know him or her?
    • What do you appreciate most about that person? Think about the day you met or the day you realized how special he or she is to you.
    • When did you find out that that person was diagnosed with cancer?
    • Tell his or her story.
    • How did it make you feel to hear or live as a member in his or her story?

  2. On a clean sheet of paper in your journal, create a KHWL chart and record a few more pieces of information before we begin this lesson. Follow the template provided on the KHWL TEMPLATE. After you fill out the first three columns, fold the sheet in your journal; begin any additional narrative reflection on a separate page in your journal.

  3. Analyze cancer data so that you have a clearer picture of the problem. Access the gender-age data available on the handouts or review the files available online at,
    (female data) or,
    (male data).

    1. Find your age bracket on the left side (y-axis). Identify the three types of cancer that were most common for your age bracket in 2001. Record your findings in your journal.
    2. Find your birth year on the horizontal axis (x-axis). Identify the cancer site with the highest and lowest death rate incidence for that year. Record your findings in your journal.
    3. Compare your results to those on the alternate gender chart. (If you looked at female data originally, now look for the same information on the male data chart). Record your findings in your journal
    4. Log onto the NY State Cancer Registry ( to find data for the county in which you live. What is most surprising about this set of data? Record at least two interesting findings.

Learning Activities

  1. Log onto the Cells Alive Web site ( In your journal create a section for LEARNING ACTIVITIES. Write down the date you began taking notes in this section of your notes. Write down the complete URL (Web address) for the Cells Alive Web site in your notes, just under the date. Answer the following questions in your journal using information provided on the site:

    1. Describe at least two major differences between a plant and animal cell. Do you think animal cells get cancers?
    2. Create a glossary of terms that you may refer to later. Since we are starting with the cell, create a category in your glossary of cell biology terms. Record the meaning/definition for each of the following terms: Nucleus, Endoplasmic reticulum, Mitochondrion, and Vacuole.

  2. View an excerpt of the Cancer Warriors program online ( For this Web-quest, select the "Starving Cancer" segment (RealVideo or Quicktime required). Write down the date you began taking notes in this section of your notes. Write down the complete URL (Web address) for the Cancer Warriors Web site in your notes, just under the date. Answer the following questions in your journal using information provided on the site:

    1. What are some of the problems associated with chemotherapy?
    2. What is endostatin?
    3. Define "angiogenesis."

    After watching the first segment, feel free to explore other segments.
Culminating Activities

  1. Log onto the What Causes Cancer? Web site ( For this Web-quest, you will do some simulations that allow you to learn more about how genetic mutations occur in cells. Write down the date you began taking notes in this section of your notes. Write down the complete URL (Web address) for the Cancer: Cell Division and Cancer Web site in your notes, just under the date. Record appropriate definitions in your Glossary of terms: genetic mutation, DNA, mitosis and tumor are some of the terms you might want to include in your list. After defining DNA, draw a diagram that represents what DNA is in your journal, make sure to show the base pairs. Use the diagram provided below for reference.

    Sample diagram of DNA

    DNA Diagram
    Accessed online June 9, 2006 from

  2. Click on each of the animations provided on the site to compare normal and uncontrolled cell division. Roll over picture 12 with the mouse. How do the Web site and this action explain what a mutation is?

  3. Refer to Picture 15 in the left column on the page. Answer each part of Question 6 using the diagram and click "Show Answers." After completing the section, write down each question and the correct answer in your journal.

  4. Log onto the How Cancer Grows Web site to check for understanding. Add unfamiliar terms to your journal Glossary of Terms.

  5. Go back to the KHWL chart in your journal/composition notebook. Complete the L column of the chart.

Extension Activities

Cross Curricular Connections

HISTORY: The Faces of Science: African Americans in Science
This Web -based resource allows users to gain valuable insight into the life and work of Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb. Dr. Cobb has made significant contributions to the field of cell biology by studying cancer.

Answer the following questions about Dr. Cobb:
  1. Describe Dr. Cobb's education. Where did she go to school? In what area of study did she get degree?
  2. What was her dissertation title? What do you think this means?
You may also choose to research the life of Dr. Judah Folkman, the research scientist/surgeon upon which the Cancer Warriors program is based ( You can answer the same questions about him in your journal.

LANGUAGE LITERACY, SPEAKING: Pronunciations in biology
One of the most intimidating things about going into a clinical setting is the fear of not knowing jargon or what a particular word means. In general, most learners find new science vocabulary very difficult to pronounce; this site can be used to help diminish anxiety about pronunciations while also reviewing cell structure. Learners use "mouse-over" technology to identify specific organelles and can either download or play small .wav files to hear the correct pronunciations.

Review the pronunciations for each of the organelles featured on this page.

PUBLIC HEALTH-ART: Scanning Electron Microscope Picture of Cancer Cells
Microscopy has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 17th century! Scientists are becoming real artists as they learn more about SEM technology. The scanning electron microscope produces pictures that expose us to a world that could only be speculated before. You may be fascinated by these images of cancer cells taken using this technology.

Go to and search for more images of cells using the "Images" link. How do these compare to the images taken with the SEM? In a local community center or classroom, allocate space to your public health art gallery. Invite a physician or cancer survivor to come and tell their stories to members of your community.

Community Connections

Establish a support group for cancer survivors or family members. Volunteer at a hospice. Participate in one of the many marathon events to raise awareness and funds to support cancer research.