Activity Number
Overview and Learning Objectives
Classroom Practice
Central Concepts
Textbook References
Activity Credits

From Monomers to Polymers (Three-activity module)

Interactive, scaffolded model

Activity Screenshot

Begin the Activity Here

Follow the link above to start this activity from within a group of related activities.

This Activity Requires:

      Test your system to see if it meets the requirements

Important! If you cannot launch anything from this database, please follow the step-by-step instructions on the software page.

Please Note: Many models are linked to directly from within the database. When an activity employs our scripting language, Pedagogica, as do some of the "guided" activities, the initial download may take several minutes. Subsequent activities will not take a long time. See this page for further instructions.

Overview and Learning Objectives

This set of three activities invites students to travel into the biological world of very large macromolecules, whose sizes and shapes are critical for their ability to perform specific biological functions. Students will learn how small molecules form into polymer chains that can be thousands and even millions of atoms long. These long chains fold into very complex shapes and become components of cell walls or parts of cellular machines that do specific jobs in the cell.

Students will be able to:

  • identify typical monomers that form the major biological macromolecules;
  • determine where organisms obtain these building blocks;
  • construct polymers in order to explain the formation of different monomers;
  • analyze the ways in which forces affect the shape of polymers and bring polymers together to form cellular structures.

return to top


For assessment with illustrations go to:

return to top

Classroom Practice

This module takes 3-5 classroom sessions.

The software in the second activity runs only on Windows machines.

return to top

Central Concepts

Key Concept:

Additional Related Concepts

Concept Map Available


  • Elements of Life

Molecular Biology

  • Amino acid
  • Carbohydrates
  • DNA
  • Lipid
  • Macromolecules
  • Molecular machine
  • Monomer
  • Nucleic Acid
  • Polymer
  • Primary structure
  • Protein
  • Synthesis of molecules and organelles


  • Bonds
  • Polymerization

return to top

Textbook References

  • Biology (Miller and Levine) Prentice Hall 5th Edition - Unit 2: Chapter 7 - Nucleic Acids and Protein Synthesis
  • Biology: Concepts and Connections (Pearson) 5th Ed. - Chapter 3: The Molecules of Cells
  • Biology: Exploring Life - Chapter 5: The Molecules of Life
  • BSCS Blue (8th Edition) - Chapter 1: The Chemistry of Life
  • BSCS Human - Chapter 8: The Cellular Basis of Activity

return to top

Activity Credits

Created by CC Project: Molecular Workbench using Molecular Workbench

return to top


return to top

NSF Logo
These materials are based upon work supported
by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers
9980620, ESI-0242701, EIA-0219345, DUE-0402553, and 0628181.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the National Science Foundation.