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

From Monomers to Polymers (Three-activity module)

Interactive, scaffolded model

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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.

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Classroom Practice

This module takes 3-5 classroom sessions.

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

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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

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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

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Activity Credits

Created by CC Project: Molecular Workbench using Molecular Workbench

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These materials are based upon work supported
by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers
9980620, ESI-0242701 and EIA-0219345

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