Lesson ideas for ‘Big Picture: Proteins’

Suggestions for using our issue in the classroom

‘Big Picture: Proteins’ explores how these macromolecules are involved in a whole array of important functions in our bodies, from giving structure to our cells to supporting our immune systems. Here, we suggest some related activities you could do with your class, many of which are applicable to students aged 16–19 as well as younger students. If you do any of these activities, we’d love to hear from you. Please send any materials or comments to bigpicture@wellcome.ac.uk.


Protein trumps

On several pages of ‘Big Picture: Proteins’, we include Protrump cards highlighting key features of particular proteins. Download these cards and more, plus templates for making your own Protein Trumps cards.

Student project or investigation

Students doing an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification), Scottish Advanced Highers or International Baccalaureate can use ‘Big Picture: Proteins’ and the related links as part of their research projects and investigations.

Some ideas for projects are:

Uses and potential uses of monoclonal antibodies

See more information on the Cancer Research UK website and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry Resources for Schools website.

How prions cause diseases such as BSE

More information can be found on the MRC Prion Unit website.

How do the structures of proteins relate to their functions?

Some examples are available at A Cellular World and more information about the structure and function of haemoglobin is in the Big Picture animation on haemoglobin.

Debate and discuss

On various pages in Big Picture: Proteins, we’ve included ‘Discuss!’ sections that highlight some of the ethical questions relating to the articles. Choose any of the ‘Discuss!’ topics and ask students to talk about the issues  in pairs, then in sets of four, and then as a class discussion. Alternatively, run a debate using any of the questions as the topic. More information about each of the ‘Discuss!’ sections is given below, and some ideas about how to structure an ethical discussion are given in Appendix 1 in the PDF.

Meaty issues

Information about synthetic meat on the Guardian website and the benefits of eating insects on How Stuff Works.

Building blood

Information about synthetic blood on the RSC website.


Film about cryonics on the BBC website and information about therapeutic hypothermia from the Wall Street Journal.

Growing up

Some information about treating restricted growth in children can be found on the NHS website, information about using human growth hormone to delay the ageing process can be found on How Stuff Works, and information about using cow growth hormone in dairy farming can be found on the Scientific American website.

Well digested

Find some information about the use of enzymes on the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry Resources for Schools website and read about enzymes producing biofuels on the BBSRC website.

Make an advert

In some cases, such as advertisements for certain protein shakes, adverts have been found to be making claims with little scientific evidence. Can your students find more examples of this?

Students may like to make their own advert for protein-rich food, or any products involving the use of enzymes, but with scientific evidence to back up their claims.

Make your name or initials out of amino acids

Each amino acid is represented by a letter of the alphabet. You can use this to create the DNA code for your name (or any other word). This activity sheet, developed by Genome British Columbia, also tells you how to then make a bracelet representing your name.

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Proteins’ in January 2014.

Cell biology, Health, infection and disease
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development