Exploring the Structure and Function of a White Cane

By Laura Hospitál on Dec 11, 2015

This activity was born of a warm-up in one of my textbooks.  As an introduction to the idea of structure and function in 7th grade science, the students were asked to describe how the structure of a hammer relates to it's function.  It occurred to me that some of my students may not have used a hammer before and that a more applicable example would be to have students relate the structure and function of white canes as this important tool is part of their everyday lives. 
This warm-up than served as an introduction to the lesson on the structure of various types of animal cells, red blood cells, muscle cells, and nervous cells, and skin cells.


  1. Remove pg. 2 (various cells) of the APH Life Science Tactile Graphics for each student for the discussion.
  2. Students will use their own canes for this discussion. 



Students will be asked to consider the structure of a cane as related to its function.   Students may work alone or as a group to compose a list of ways the structure of the cane correlates to its function.   My class came up with the following:
  • Firm - So that you will receive tactile feedback (It wouldn't work if it was soft like spaghetti.)
  • Tip - Designed of material that will allow the user to know what surface is traveled upon.
  • Length - Specific to student - We talked about how one taller student's cane wouldn't work for a student of smaller stature
  • Color - White - so that others will notice it (My students didn't think of that one but I think it is also appropriate.)
Whatever your class decides to focus on is fine.  The key is that they grasp the idea that the strucure of a cane is vital to the cane serving it's function.     After the activity, segue into a discussion of cell structure of various types of cells using the APH Life Science Tactile graphics (and text - if students are using one).  Also, see variations.  

Related Vocabulary 

  • structure - the arrangement of parts in an organism
  • function- the special, normal or proper activity of an organ or part  - what it does
  • cell - the smallest unit of living organisms that can perform all life processes
  • tissue -  a group of similar cells that perform a common function
  • organ - a collection of tissues that carry out a specialized function of the body
  • organ system - a group of organs that work together to perform body functions


  • Another object could be utilized, as appropriate, if the student isn't a cane user
  • Structure and function of organs or organ systems could be substituted for the discussion of cell structure.  

NGSS Standards:

2nd grade:  PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
Different properties are suited to different purposes. (2-PS1-2),(2-PS1-3)
4th grade - Structure, Function, and Information Processing
LS1.A: Structure and Function
Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction. (4-LS1-1)
Middle School - Structure, Function, and Information Processing
Within cells, special structures are responsible for particular functions, and the cell membrane forms the boundary that controls what enters and leaves the cell. (MS-LS1-2)
In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems. These subsystems aregroups of cells that work together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions. (MS-LS1-3)
High School - Structure and Function
LS1.A: Structure and Function
Systems of specialized cells within organisms help them perform the essential functions of life. (HS-LS1-1)
All cells contain genetic information in the form of DNA molecules. Genes are regions in the DNA that contain the instructions that code for the formation of proteins, which carry out most of the work of cells. (HS-LS1-1) (Note: This Disciplinary Core Idea is also addressed by HS-LS3-1.)
Multicellular organisms have a hierarchical structural organization, in which any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level. (HS-LS1-2)
white cane collage


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