So a little while back I was teaching a lesson on enzymes. For a Biology teacher this is pretty standard stuff and it comes up on the specification in a few different places in different key stages. At A Level we teach about 5 to 10 enzymes by name – they usually come up when talking about digestion and things like DNA replication.
Out of curiosity I asked the kids how many enzymes they think are used in an animal’s body. Some of them suggested numbers around 10 or 20.
The actual number is probably more like 75,000.
I like giving visual context so for fun I decided to research it a bit and stumbled across a list of all the enzymes used by a single eukaryotic cell. It totalled about 1,000 enzymes. I printed off the list on A4 paper (around 20 sheets!) and stuck them together end-to-end. When I stood on the desk and let the rolled up list drop I got audible gasps from the group (I know, right… enzymes?!)
It’s not easy to find ways to provide this kind of context consistently but given the reaction I got I’m going to try and incorporate it more into my lessons in future.
My list (as a PDF) can be downloaded here.
The site I got it from is here.